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A Creative Life in Music 

His Life and Work 


I. Johann Sebastian Bach 

Pastel by Gottlieb Friedrich Bach in the possession 

of Paul Bach, Eisenach 


Seven Generations of 
Creative Genius 






■ - n - 


I.,,, . 





To the Memory of 

whose eager quest 

for the adventures of the mind 

was a source of stimulation 

to the Author 


books and articles on members of the Bach family are so numerous that 
a complete bibliography would fill several volumes. Nevertheless it does 
not seem to have occurred to previous authors to write the history of the 
whole clan from the first manifestations of musical talent in the 16th 
century to its last occurrence in the middle of the 19th. This has been 
attempted in the present book, and the magnitude of the task will, it is 
hoped, be accepted as an excuse for the inevitable shortcomings of the 

From the outset the writer was aware of the complexity of problems 
confronting him, since, with the exception of Johann Sebastian's works 
and a small number of modern reprints, the majority of the material 
needed was only available in European libraries. Moreover, the where- 
abouts of the invaluable Bachiana of the former Preussische Staatsbiblio- 
thek, Berlin, were not known in 1947, when the present research was 
started. A tremendous amount of slow and painstaking spadework had to 
be done before the author was in possession of a representative collection 
of photostats and microfilms, on which to base his study. However, most 
obstacles were eventually overcome, and the writer believes that the book 
offers in each of its sections material new to the English reader. In the case 
of Sebastian's relatives a great amount of works accessible only in manu- 
script or in contemporary prints was dealt with, among them various 
compositions not considered by former research students. An attempt was 
also made to outline the careers of the different Bachs against the religious, 
social, and political backgrounds of the time. With regard to Sebastian it 
was felt that a substantial part of the book ought to be devoted to this 
most representative member of the family. The author aimed at including 
the results of recent German research, in particular from publications 
issued in honour of the Bicentenary of 1950. Various details have now 
been cleared up which contribute to an interpretation somewhat different 
from that given in the classical biographies of Spitta, Schweitzer or Terry. 
In this connection mention should be made of the frontispiece to this book, 
the miniature portrait of Sebastian painted by his kinsman, Gottlieb 
Friedrich Bach, which the artist's great-grandson gave to the author for 
first publication. 


As the amount of music quotations included in the present book 
was naturally restricted, the author plans to present before long an 
Anthology of music by members of the Bach Family. 

The list of persons and institutions to whom the author feels indebted 
is a very extensive one. In the first place he should like to express his 
deepest appreciation to the Bollingen Foundation for their generous 
financial assistance which enabled him to obtain the necessary material 
from foreign countries. Moreover, he found European experts most 
co-operative and interested in his project. Without their unfailing assist- 
ance and patient labours this book would never have been written. In 
particular he wishes to express his thanks to Mr. Paul Bach, Eisenach; 
Mrs. Mia Bach, Witten/Ruhr; Mr. Ernst Brinkmann, Mtihlhausen; Pro- 
fessor Victor Burr, Director of the Universitatsbibliothek, Tubingen; Dr. 

A. Corbet, Bibliothecaire de la Bibliotheque du Conservatoire Royal, 
Brussels; Dr. Martin Cremer, Director of the Westdeutsche Bibliothek, 
Marburg/L.; Dr. Conrad Freyse, Director of the Bach-Museum, Eisenach; 
Professor Wilibald Gurlitt, Freiburg/B.; Dr. Rudolf Hocker, former 
Director of the Oeffentliche Studienbibliothek, Berlin; His Honour, the 
Mayor of Jena; A. Hyatt King, Esq., Department of Printed Music, 
British Museum, London; Dr. Hedwig Kraus, Director of the Collections 
of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna; His Honour, Mayor 
Mogk of Meiningen; Dr. Herbert Pee, Curator of the Kunsthalle, Ham- 
burg; Dr. Roland Philip, Vienna; Mrs. Fritz Rollberg, widow of the late 
Bach scholar, Eisenach; Dr. Friedrich Schafer, Kirchenarchivrat, Eisenach; 

B. Schofield, Esq., Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts in the 
British Museum, London; Dr. Friedrich Smend, Professor of the Kirch- 
liche Hochschule, Berlin; Stadtarchivar Fritz Wiegand, Erfurt. In this 
country the author received most valuable help from Dr. Huntington 
Cairns, Director of the National Gallery, Washington, D.C. ; Dr. 
Archibald T. Davison of Harvard University; Dr. George S. Dickinson of 
Vassar College; Dr. Paul H. Lang and Dr. Daniel G. Mason of Columbia 
University; Mr. Philip Vaudrin, New York. Unfailing assistance 
was given by Dr. Harold Spivacke, Mr. Edward Waters, Mr. Richard S. 
Hill and Mr. William Lichtenwanger of the Library of Congress, 
Washington, D.C, as well as by Mr. Richard Appel, chief of the music 
department of the Boston Public Library. Various officials of the Widener, 
Houghton and Isham Libraries of Harvard University, the Sibley Musical 
Library of Rochester, N.Y., and the New York Public Library proved 
most helpful too. Dr. George B. Weston, Professor emeritus of Harvard 
University, very generously made the treasures of his Friedemann Bach 


Collection available to the writer. Thanks are also due to Lord Hilling- 
don and the Oxford University Press for permission to reproduce the 
portrait of Johann Christian Bach by Thomas Gainsborough from Johann 
Christian Bach by Terry. For basic advice regarding the evaluation of 
the Bach painters he has to thank Mr. Thomas M. Messer, Assistant 
Director of the American Federation of Art, and Dr. Else Hofmann, 
New York. Linguistic advice was generously contributed by Mrs. Mabel 
E. Blandford and the late Walter F. H. Blandford, as well as by Mr. Klaus 
G. Roy, Librarian of the College of Music of Boston University. Dr. 
Henry S. Drinker of Merion, Penna., very kindly translated some poems 
into English; moreover his outstanding translations of Bach Cantatas and 
Chorales were used throughout this book. The author's brother, Dr. 
Ernest Geiringer, rendered valuable help in checking historical data. 
Great patience and understanding were displayed by the publishers, to 
whom sincere thanks are due for their splendid co-operation. 

Dr. Irene Geiringer (Mrs. Karl Geiringer), who has assisted the 
author in his previous literary efforts, extensively collaborated in the 
writing of the present book, particularly with regard to the biographical 


BOSTON, MASS., October 1953 


Preface • page vii 

Abbreviations xv 


Introduction : Ordeal in Germany 3 

A Miller, A Jester, A Piper (Veit, Hans, Caspar Bach) 6 

The Founder of the Erfurt Dynasty (Johann Bach) 13 

Two Bachs at Arnstadt (Christoph and Heinrich Bach) 19 

Musical Trends in the lyth Century — 

The Compositions of Johann and Heinrich Bach 23 

Heinrich's Two Great Sons (Johann Christoph (13) and Johann 

Michael Bach) 30 

The Music of Johann Michael Bach 39 

The Music of Johann Christoph Bach 47 

The Triple Team of Bach Brothers (Georg Christoph, Johann 

Christoph (12), Johann Ambrosius Bach) 63 

Epilogue 78 


Introduction : Particularism and Universalism in Germany 83 

The Jena and the Muhlhausen Bach (Johann Nicolaus and 

Johann Friedrich Bach) 87 

The Music of Johann Nicolaus Bach 93 

The Descendants of Johann Bach (Johann Christoph (17) and 

Johann Bernhard Bach) 97 

The Music of Johann Bernhard Bach 99 

The Meiningen Bachs (Johann Ludwig and Nikolaus Ephraim 

Bach) 102 

The Music of Johann Ludwig Bach 108 

Johann Sebastian Bach 119 

I. Apprenticeship (1685-1703) 119 

II. Years of Growth (1703-1708) 128 


in. The Great Organist (1708-1717) page 143 

iv. Court Conductor and Princely Friend (1717-1723) 154 
v. Thomas Cantor and Director Musices at Leipzig (1723- 

1750) i 6 3 

vi. Sebastian and His Family I 9° 

The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach 202 

1. Works for Voices and Instruments 206 

11. Works for the Organ Solo 242 

in. Works for the Clavier Solo 259 

iv. Works for String and Wind Instruments ; Concertos 279 

Epilogue 2 9^ 



Introduction : Rococo and Classicism 3 QI 

The Halle Bach (Wilhelm Friedemann Bach) 3°3 

The Music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach 316 

The Berlin and Hamburg Bach (Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach) 336 

The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach 352 

The Buckeburg Bach (Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach) 378 

The Music of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach 386 

The Milan and London Bach (Johann Christian Bach) 4°4 

The Music of Johann Christian Bach 417 
Two Painters at Meiningen (Gottlieb Friedrich and Johann 

Philipp Bach) 445 

The Works of Gottlieb Friedrich and Johann Philipp Bach 447 

Bachs at Eisenach (Johann Ernst and Johann Georg Bach) 45 1 

The Music of Johann Ernst Bach 454 

Sebastian's Children and the Bach Family 4 6 4 
Two Grandsons of Sebastian (Johann Sebastian II and Wilhelm 

Friedrich Ernst Bach) 47 1 

The Music of Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach 417 

Epilogue 481 

Genealogical Table of the Bach Musicians 4 8 7 

Bibliography 49° 

Index of Persons and Places 497 

Index of Compositions by Members of the Bach Family 506 



I. Johann Sebastian Bach. Pastel by Gottlieb Friedrich 

Bach in the possession of Paul Bach, Eisenach frontispiece 

II. A genealogical tree of the Bach family drawn in 

the 19th century facing page 16 

III. A genealogical tree of the Bach family from the 19th 

century, beginning with the year 1530 17 

IV. Hans Bach. Engraving, 161 7, in Bibliotheque Nationale, 

Paris 32 

V. Eisenach, where Johann Sebastian Bach was born and 
members of the family served from 1665 to 1797. 
Engraving by Merian, 1650 33 

VI. Autograph of the first page of the Cantata for the 16th 
or 24th Sunday after Trinity by C. Philipp Emanuel 
Bach in Universitatsbibliothek, Tubingen 48 

VII. Title-page of the Birthday Cantata by Georg Christoph 

Bach in Singakademie, Berlin 49 

VIIL Johann Ambrosius Bach. Oil-painting formerly in 

Preussische Staatsbibliothek, Berlin 80 

IX. The house, 1 1, Rittergasse, in which Johann Ambrosius 
Bach lived during the first three years of his stay in 
Eisenach 8 1 

X. Johann Ludwig Bach. Pastel by Gottlieb Friedrich Bach 

in Oeffentliche Studienbibliothek, Berlin 96 

XL Johann Ludwig Bach's Cantata 'Gott ist unser Zuver- 
sicht' in the hand of Johann Sebastian Bach. MS. in 
Oeffentliche Studienbibliothek, Berlin 97 

XII. Corridor in the Eisenach 'Bach House.' Oil-painting by 

Paul Bach in the possession of Karl Geiringer, Boston 128 
XHJ. First page of the autograph of Johann Sebastian Bach's 
Cantata 'Es erhub sich ein Streit,' formerly in Preus- 
sische Staatsbibliothek, Berlin 129 


XIV. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Drawing by P. Gillie, for- 
merly in Preussische Staatsbibliothek, Berlin 320 
XV. First page of autograph of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's 
unfinished Clavier Concerto in E flat, in Westdeutsche 
Bibliothek, Marburg 321 
XVI. C. Philipp Emanuel Bach, Pastor Sturm and the artist. 
Drawing by Andreas Stottrup in Kupferstichkabinett, 
Hamburg 352 
XVII. Autograph of the 'Heilig' for one chorus by C. Philipp 

Emanuel Bach in Universitatsbibliothek, Tubingen 353 
XVIII. Johann Christian Bach by Thomas Gainsborough 400 

XIX. Autograph of Johann Christian Bach's Clavier Concerto 

in B flat major in Westdeutsche Bibliothek, Marburg 401 
XX. Gottlieb Friedrich Bach. Self-portrait. Pastel in the 

possession of Paul Bach, Eisenach 448 

XXI. Johann Philipp Bach. Self-portrait. Pastel in the posses- 
sion of Paul Bach, Eisenach 449 
XXII. C. Philipp Emanuel Bach. Pastel by Johann Philipp 

Bach in the possession of Paul Bach, Eisenach 456 

XXIII. Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach. Oil-painting in Sin- 

akademie, Berlin 464 

XXIV. The painter Johann Sebastian II. Engraving 465 
XXV. Johann Sebastian II. 'Ideal Landscape.' Oil-painting in 

Kunsthalle, Hamburg 480 

XXVI. Johann Sebastian Bach II. 'Landscape with mill.' Draw- 
ing in the Albertina, Vienna 481 


1. The Bach cities on the map of Germany page 64 

2. Signatures of various Bach musicians 72 

3. Places significant in J. Sebastian's life 192 

(Nos. 2 and 3 from F. Wiegand: 'J. S. Bach und seine Ver- 
wandten in Arnstadt') 


The numbers appearing in brackets after certain Bach names are those 
established by J . S. Bach in his 'Origin of the Musical Bach Family (cf. p. 6) 

In the discussion of the music lower case letters indicate a minor key, capitals 
a major key (a=A minory A=A major, etc.) 















Archiv fur Musikforschung. 

J. S. Bach's Collected Works published by the Bach-Gesellschaft. 
Leipzig, 185 1 -i 900. 

Bach Jahrbuch. Leipzig, 1904- 

Thematic catalogue of the works of J. S. Bach in Wolfgang 
Schmieder, 'Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikal- 
ischen Werke J. S. Bach's.' Leipzig, 1950. 

Denkmaler deutscher Tonkunst. Leipzig, 1892-1931 

Das Erbe deutscher Musik (continuation of DDT since 1935). 

Thematic catalogue of the works of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach 
in Martin Falck, 'Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.' Leipzig, 1913. 

Abbreviation for the German Gulden (florin), which was, similarly 
to the present pound sterling, subdivided into 20 Groschen (gr.), 
each Groschen comprising 12 Pfennige (pf.) 

Groschen. One-twentieth of a German Gulden. 

Musical Quarterly. 

J. S. Bach's organ works as published by C. F. Peters in 9 vols. 

Pfennig. One-twelfth of a German Groschen. 

Thematic catalogue of the works of older members of the Bach 
family in Max Schneider, 'Thematisches Verzeichnis der 
musikalischen Werke der Familie Bach,' in BJ, 1907. 

Sammelbander der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft. 

Thematic catalogue of the works of Johann Christoph Friedrich 
Bach compiled by Georg Schunemann in DDT 56. 

Thematic catalogue of the works of Johann Christian Bach in 
Charles Sanford Terry's 'John Christian Bach.' London, 1929. 

Thaler. i\ of a German Gulden. 

Thematic catalogue of the works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach 
in Alfred Wotquenne, 'C. Ph. E. Bach, Thematisches Ver- 
zeichnis seiner Werke.' Leipzig, 1905. 

Zeitschrift fur Musikwissenschaft. 






( -1700) 


the story of the Bach musicians is unique with regard to achievement as 
well as duration. In seven successive generations Bachs were active as 
church or town musicians, and even the immortal genius rising out of 
their midst was succeeded by sons who played a highly significant part 
in the art of their time. And of so tough a fibre were the Bachs made that 
they managed to rise from the humblest beginnings in a period of the 
greatest national distress. 

It is hardly possible to paint too dark a picture of the ordeal which 
the German people had to endure in the first half of the 17th century, 
when the Thirty Years "War was fought in their land. 'Fields lay waste 
and desolate. Burnt castles and villages in ashes were scattered far and 
wide. The towns groaned under the scourge of undisciplined and preda- 
tory garrisons, who wasted the property of the citizens, and availed them- 
selves to the utmost of the licence of war. The destruction of the crops 
and the constant succession of armies which overran the exhausted 
country were inevitably followed by famine. The crowding together of 
men in camps and billets spread diseases which proved more fatal than 
even fire and sword. All vices flourished under the protection of anarchy 
and impunity, and men became as savage as the country itself.' This 
description by the German poet, Friedrich Schiller, 1 is, if anything, still 
too moderate in tone. 

There are other historians 2 who have most bloodcurdling tales to tell. 
Certainly the German people had reached a tragically low level by 1648, 
the year in which the peace of Westphalia was concluded. In the more 
fortunate provinces the population had dropped to half its former 
strength, while in other states, for instance Thuringia, which will occupy 
us in particular, not more than one fourth was left. Those who had 
miraculously survived were physically and spiritually exhausted, and 
naturally the children they produced during the later war-years and the 
immediate post-war period also showed a lack of vitality. 

From such a generation no great creative achievements could reason- 
ably be expected. Indeed, the German literature of this period produced 

1 'Geschichte des dreissigjahrigen Krieges,' written in 1791-92. 

2 Cf. Hermann Gebhardt, 'Thuringische Kirchengeschichte,' Gotha, 1882. 



hardly anything of lasting value. There were few gifted poets or writers, 
and those who did show a distinctive talent spoiled a genuine capacity 
for expression by crude and unsavoury details. Even the German language 
itself had, as it were, been given up by the people, who were anxious to 
interlard it with as many French and Latin idioms as possible, in order to 
give it style. In the fine arts things were hardly better; 'lacking talents, 
lacking independent artistic ideas, lacking opportunities for expression, 
German art could in no way compete with the creative work of the 
neighbouring countries.' 1 

It is a strange and heartening phenomenon that in these disastrous 
years music remained alive, composers of indisputable talent appeared, 
and although they were often badly hindered by the exigencies of war, 
there was never the arid desert which was to be found in other domains 
of art. A 17th-century writer, Johann Flitner, even went so far as to speak 
of a 'seculum musicum.' A baffling paradox indeed! 

A key to its solution may be found in the close interdependence of 
music and religion. Wherever destruction and ruin were not complete, 
religion retained something of its former power. The little spiritual force 
that subsisted in the survivors of the war and the nearest post-war genera- 
tion found its expression in religious life. The worse conditions became 
in the outside world, the more fervent grew the longing for the peace and 
inner security to be derived from a life in Christ. In such an atmosphere 
music, the most transcendental of all creative manifestations, was a 
spiritual necessity, a medicine the German people simply could not do 
without. In particular the Protestant Church, with much of its original 
driving force still intact, was responsible for a continuous flow of new and 
important musical works. Wherever a church was spared from destruc- 
tion, the parishioners did their utmost to have services which, with the 
help of music, would enable them to triumph over their wretched and 
hopeless material existences. This does not mean, of course, that the long 
war and its after-effects did not cause grave damage to musical life as 
well; the injuries inflicted were serious, but by no means fatal. 

This is most vividly revealed when we turn from the large cities, 
which had naturally greater resources, to the small Protestant communi- 
ties, where cantors, organists, and town musicians did an amazing job 
against tremendous odds. In particular, music flourished in the province 
of Thuringia and a local historian 2 could remark proudly in 1684: 

1 Cf. Wilhelm Liibke and Max Semrau, 'Barock und Rokoko,' 14th ed., Greifswald, 1913. 

2 August Boetius, 'Merkwiirdige und Auserlesene Geschichte von der beriihmten 
Landgraffschaft Thiiringen,' Gotha, 1684. 


'Music is diligently cultivated in churches and schools. The Thurin- 
gians know what the ancient claimed, that he who does not love singing, 
does not possess balance either in mind or body. Here they build in 
villages not only string instruments such as violins, basses, viola da 
gamba, clavicymbals, spinets, citterns . . . because also the peasants play 
them, but one finds even in insignificant parishes organ works with an 
amazing number of stops and variety of equipment. [Moreover] such 
families as the Lindemann, Altenburg, Ahle, Brigel and Bach have through 
their compositions given a great name to the province of Thuringia.' 

When this report was written, members of the Bach family had 
indeed already tended the musical soil of their homeland for a long time. 
Yet the Bachs were to continue work in this field through more than 
another hundred years, and they were to leave the other musical families 
far behind, rising to a distinction which even the enthusiastic chronicler 
was unable to foresee. 


Hans Bach (?) 
(Wechmar, 16th cent.) 

Hans (The jester') Veit (i) 

1555-1615 ?-i6i9 

i 57 o(?)-i6 4 2(?) 

Johannes (2) 

Lips (3) Caspar 
?-i620 i6oo(?)-? 

Johann (4) 

I I 

Christoph (5) Heinrich (6) 

1613-61 1615-92 


Numbers following a name are those of Sebastian's Genealogy. 

during the 1 8th century the Bach musicians became fully conscious of 
their family's unique history. In 1727 a Cantor of the Thuringian town 
of Gehren by the name of Bach proudly claimed in a letter that 'the 
genealogy of the world-famous Bach family could be traced back to the 
year 1504.' 1 Whether the Cantor really possessed a document of this kind, 
we do not know. If he did, it was not accessible to his great kinsman, 
Sebastian Bach, who wrote eight years later the history of the clan en- 
titled 'Origin of the Musical Bach Family.' The Thomas Cantor's 
chronicle 2 went back only to the later part of the 16th century, beginning 
with these words: 

1 The writer of this letter was Johann Christoph Bach (No. 17 in Sebastian's 
Genealogy). Cf. Fritz Wiegand, 'Johann Sebastian Bach und seine Verwandten in Arn- 
stadt,' Arnstadt, 1950. In the district of Coburg, Franconia, the name of Bach can be 
found as early as the year 1000, according to Mr. Paul Bach, Eisenach. 

2 There are two copies of the Ursprung der music alisch-Bachischen Familie in existence. 
One belonged to Philipp Emanuel Bach and was sent by him, in 1774, with some additions 
and corrections, to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, the first Bach biographer. The other was 
probably copied by Sebastian's kinsman and secretary, Johann Elias Bach, who gave it to 
his brother, Lorenz, whose descendants preserved the document. Complete editions of the 
'Origin' are available in English translations by Ch. Sanford Terry, London, 1929; and 
by David and Mendel ('Bach Reader'), New York, 1945. 



'Veit Bach, a white-bread baker in Hungary, in the 16th century was 
compelled to escape from Hungary because of his Lutheran faith. After 
converting his property into money, as far as this could be done, he went 
to Germany, and finding security for his religion in Thuringia, settled at 
Wechmar near Gotha, and continued his trade there. What he most 
delighted in was his little cittern which he used to take with him to work 
to play while the mill was grinding. A pretty noise the pair of them must 
have made! However, it taught him to keep time, and that apparently is 
how music first came into our family.' 

We wish Sebastian's report were somewhat more explicit, for it 
leaves one essential point unclear. We do not know whether Veit was a 
native of Hungary or a German baker of Wechmar who on the traditional 
journeyman's tour had found conditions in Hungary favourable and 
remained there. The latter theory was adopted unquestioningly by the 
majority of scholars, who point out that the name of Bach can be traced 
in various places of Thuringia all through the 16th century and that a 
man called Hans Bach (maybe Veit's father) is mentioned as city guardian 
of Wechmar in 1561. Recently a dissenting voice was heard, however, in 
Germany. 1 If Veit emigrated from Germany, it claims, he could not have 
stayed too long in Hungary; how was it possible for him to acquire in so 
short a period the apparently considerable property mentioned by 
Sebastian? And why did the chronicler describe him as baker in Hungary, 
without mentioning the Thuringian origin? Doesn't it seem more likely 
that Veit was born in Hungary and inherited property from his father? 
His family might still have been a German one, for at that time many 
people of German origin were living in Hungary. On the other hand, a 
possible mixture of the German and Magyar races in Veit's or in his wife's 
ancestry might have been one of the factors determining the rich artistic 
heritage Veit bestowed on his descendants. 

The question is unanswered yet. 2 Two significant facts emerge, how- 
ever, from Sebastian's narrative. Veit, for the sake of his faith, gave up a 
settled existence, thus proving the deep affinity to the Lutheran religion 
which was to characterize so many Bachs, and Thuringia was the section 
of Germany he decided on. Perhaps he did so because the Bachs residing 
there were kinspeople, but whatever were his reasons, there is no doubt 

1 Cf. W. Rauschenberger, 'Die Familien Bach,' Frankfurt a.M., 1950. 

a J. M. Korabinsky's assumption in 'Beschreibung der . . . Stadt Pressburg,' 
Pressburg, 1784, that Veit Bach had his domicile in Pressburg (Bratislava) has not been 
proved so far. 


that the country suited him. Many generations of Bachs following him 
felt the same attraction and they stayed on in this part of Germany, 
just moving from one Thuringian town to another, establishing Bach 
centres in Gotha, Arnstadt, Erfurt, Eisenach, and so forth. Maybe a 
certain lack of initiative in the Bachs was responsible for this, as was 
also the traditional conception of the time that the son should inherit 
the father's position. But these were not all the decisive factors. Partly 
it was love of Thuringia that made the Bachs cling to it up to our own 

It is a beautiful country, this Thuringia. In the south-west and north- 
east, a central basin is bordered by the huge, dense forests of the 
Thuringerwald and Harz Mountains, which even in our days are among 
the most popular vacation resorts in Germany. Nature is kind to the 
Thuringians; a moderate climate and fertile soil bring forth crops not 
excelled by those of any other German province. The inhabitants are 
stolid and introvert, and an abundance of legends testifies to their strong 
imagination. In Thuringia stands the Kyffhauser mountain in which the 
Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa is believed to be waiting with his 
crusading army until such time as the ravens give him the signal to 
return to the German people. The highest mountain of the Harz, the 
Brocken, famous for the peculiar mist formations on its summit, is held 
to be the meeting place of all witches. Near Eisenach there stands the 
Horselberg in which Venus is reported to have kept Tannhauser in bondage, 
until he left her and appeared in the Wartburg while the Minnesingers' 
song contest was being held. But the name of Eisenach's Wartburg 
conjures up yet another picture. Here it was that Luther, under the 
assumed name of Junker J org, stayed whilst working on his epoch- 
making translation of the Bible; and this is by no means the only place in 
Thuringia connected with the reformer. In Eisenach he went to the Latin 
school, the same institution which Sebastian Bach was destined to attend 
almost two hundred years later. In Erfurt Luther studied at the University 
and entered the Augustinian monastery. No wonder that Thuringia 
became one of the pillars of the new Reformation, and that some of its 
ruling princes were among the leaders of the movement. 

So Veit Bach settled down in Thuringia, where simple plough-boys 
were apt to appear on Sundays in their choir-loft to sing or perform on 
instruments 'with more art than many a learned musician,' 1 where even 
in the churches of the tiniest hamlets Vocal music was adorned and 

1 Preface to the 116th Psalm written in 1623 by the Jena official, Burkhardt 
Grossmann (formerly Prussian State Library, Berlin, Mus. aut. G 930). 


embellished by at least five or six violins.' 1 In this land, steeped in music, 
the baker's musical proficiency increased, and his beloved cittern became 
so much a part of his existence that he did not confine himself to playing 
it in hours of leisure but also took it to his mill. 

Veit was not the only Bach of his generation to feel so strongly 
inclined towards music. About the same time there lived Hans Bach, 
possibly a brother of Veit, who, though a carpenter by trade, became 
fiddler (Spielmann) and court jester to the widowed Duchess of 
Wurttemberg in Niirtingen. The little we know about him is revealed in 
two portraits which were preserved to posterity through Emanuel Bach's 2 
collection of family treasures. In the earlier of the two portraits, an etching 
formerly in the State Library of Berlin, we see a middle-aged man, wearing 
the large ruff fashionable at the time, and carrying a fiddle in his left hand, a 
bow in his right. His hair is cut quite short, except for a carefully modelled 
'quiff' in the middle of his forehead, which was probably meant to 
produce a comical effect, and he has a pointed beard and moustache. On 
his right shoulder are displayed the jingling bells of the jester. The music 
he performed was apparently of a light character. At least that is what the 
verses 3 on a panel above his head imply: 

Hans Bach, the fiddler, has a style 

That when you hear him, you must smile; 

It is indeed unique and weird, 

In keeping with his Hans Bach beard. 

The other portrait, a copperplate engraving owned by the Bibliotheque 
Nationale in Paris, depicts an older man, dressed in about the same style, 
and bears an inscription in Latin: 'Hans Bach, famous and amusing court 
jester, jocular fiddler, a diligent, upright, and religious man.' As a symbol 
of his real trade, eighteen different carpenter's tools are engraved around 
the inscription (111. IV). 

The fact that two different portraits were engraved of Hans Bach, one 
of them by the well-reputed Wilhelm Schichard, subsequently a Univer- 
sity professor in Tubingen, reveals that the portrayed was by no means 
a common court jester. It is also noteworthy that although jesters, like 
jugglers, ranked at that time among the 'infamous' (unehrlich) professions, 

1 Cf. Michael Altenburg, preface to 'Erster Teil newer lieblich und zierlicher Intraden,' 

2 Emanuel Bach erroneously assumed the portrayed to be Johannes (Hans) Bach (2), 
the great-grandfather of Sebastian, who died in 1626. Actually the Hans of the pictures died 
in 161 5 and his exact relationship to Sebastian is not known. 

3 Translation by Henry S. Drinker. 


the church register mentions that Hans 'this diligent and faithful servant 
of Her Ducal Highness was given an honest funeral.' Thus Hans Bach had, 
thanks to his fine character and excellent work, succeeded in rising out of 
the lowest stratum of society and had earned general respect. 

While the miller-baker Veit was an amateur musician, and Hans 
combined the positions of a fiddler and jester with that of a carpenter, 
another Bach, by the name of Caspar (born around 1570), perhaps a 
younger brother of Veit, served in the Thuringian city of Gotha as a 
town piper (Stadtpfeifer). Caspar lived in Gotha in the high tower of 
the town hall, 1 as was the custom for the town piper; for, according to the 
instructions given to him, in addition to his duties as a town musician 
(cf. p. 15), he had to 'strike the hours, look out day and night for riders 
and carriages, watch closely all roads on which more than two riders were 
approaching, and also report whenever he observed a fire nearby or in 
the distance.' He stayed in Gotha until 1620, when he was called in the 
same capacity to the city of Arnstadt. This Thuringian town was to play 
a highly important part in the Bach chronicle, and, save for short intervals, 
to harbour musicians of the clan for almost two centuries. 2 Caspar came 
to a city sadly depleted through an epidemic of plague in the preceding 
year, in which around a third of the population had perished. Even when 
health conditions improved, the war, which had broken out in 161 8, 
created an atmosphere of tension. The watch duties of the piper were now 
of the greatest importance and Caspar may have experienced plenty of 
anxious moments while living in the tower of the castle. In 1633 he was 
at last able to resign his position and to buy a house of his own, which 
still stands to-day. He continued, however, to work as musician, though 
not as watchman, both for the town and for the city's patron, the Count 
of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt, in whose band he played the duliian (bassoon). 
The music-loving sovereign showed himself very generous in promoting 
the training of another Caspar, probably the town piper's eldest son 
(born around 1600). He sent the youth, who apparently showed great 
talent, to the courts of Bayreuth and Dresden, paying for Caspar's instruc- 
tion by renowned masters, and liberally equipping him with the necessary 
clothes and instruments. In return Caspar had to sign a pledge that he 
would practise assiduously on various instruments and subsequently 

1 The Genealogy relates that he resided at the casde of Grimmenstein, which cannot 
be correct as the casde was demolished in 1567. 

2 The name of Bach occurs for the first time in the Arnstadt church register of 1613, 
when a Johanna Elisabeth Bach from the village of Ichtershausen married the cooper, 
Andreas Hartmann. Cf. Wiegand, I.e. 


enter the Count's service. This plan never materialized, however. Maybe 
the Count did not engage young Caspar because the war situation was 
interfering more and more with musical activities, maybe the promising 
young artist died at an early age; whatever the explanation, there is no 
trace of him in Arnstadt. Nor were old Caspar's other descendants privi- 
leged to carry on the father's work. Four of his younger sons died before 
him, in the years 1632 to 1637, and the town thus lost a number of 
musicians. 1 After experiencing so much unhappiness in Arnstadt, old 
Caspar seems to have felt the urge to leave it for the time being. There 
were many kinsmen living in nearby villages and he may have joined one 
such group and supported himself as a musician. Thus his death, which 
occurred between 1642 and 1644, is not noted in the Arnstadt register. 

It was to Caspar Bach that a son of Veit by the name of Johannes (2), 
born around 1580, was apprenticed when the lad's 'evident talent' 
(Genealogy) induced him to adopt the profession of a musician. Johannes 
stayed with his master even after the traditional term of apprenticeship 
was served, but at last he moved back to Wechmar. He was frequently 
called to nearby places like Gotha, Erfurt, and Arnstadt, when the town 
musicians needed reinforcement, and he had an excellent reputation all 
through the district. In addition to this he worked as a carpetmaker, 2 and 
when his father Veit died in 161 9, Johannes seems to have taken charge 
of the mill as well. But, only seven years after his father's death, this busy 
life was cut short when Johannes succumbed to the plague which 
ravaged the district. He left three sons, each of whom was destined to 
found an important musical dynasty. 3 

The Genealogy also mentions a brother of Johannes, describing him 
as a carpetmaker but omitting his name. It is generally assumed that this 
was Lips Bach, who appears in the Wechmar register as the son of Veit, 

1 Three of them, Melchior (1603-34), Johannes (1602-32) and Nicol (1619-37), are 
described in the death-register as musicians; the fourth, who died in 1635, as a blind man. 
This latter, by the name of Heinrich, may well be the 'blind Jonah' whom the Genealogy 
mentions as the subject of many adventures. 

2 This is how the funeral sermon for his son, Heinrich Bach, by J. G. Olearius, 
1692, describes him. The Genealogy on the other hand mentions his work as a miller. 

3 The information in the Genealogy regarding his marriage, taken over uncritically 
by some Bach biographers, including Ch. S. Terry, is slightly misleading. It states that on 
his return after Veit's death, Johannes married Anna Schmied, an innkeeper's daughter. 
This marriage would have taken place in 1619. On the other hand, the important sons of 
Johannes mentioned in the Genealogy were born in 1604, 1613, 1615. If he married Anna 
Schmied in 1619, she can only have been his second wife, while the sons we know of were 
children of a first marriage. It seems more likely, however, that he moved to Wechmar 
much earlier. 


and died in 1620. The family tradition claims that the three gifted sons of 
Lips were sent to Italy by the Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt for their 
musical education, but so far no evidence to support this claim has been 
unearthed. It is not until a century later that we find solid historical 
evidence of this branch of the family, the so-called 'Meiningen line,' 
which was to produce some very fine artists. 


Johannes (2) 

Barbara Hoffmann=Johann (4)=Hedwig Lammerhirt 

r -1636 1604-73 


Johann Christian (7) Johann Egidius (8) Johann Nikolaus (9) 

1640-82 1645-1716 1653-82 

Johann Bernhard (18) Johann Christoph (19) 

1676-1749 1685-1740 

AT the time when Johannes Bach (2) died, Wechmar was no longer a 
good place in which to live. War had come to Germany, and as Thuringia 
was crossed by two strategically important roads, one to Niirnberg and 
one to Wiirzburg, troops marched again and again through the lovely 
land and drained its resources. Moreover, it did not take long for the 
plague to catch up with war. The little community of Wechmar suffered 
dreadful epidemics in 1626 and 1635; in the latter as many as 503 victims 
were listed, among them the widow of Johannes, who himself had been 
felled by the first outbreak of the Black Death nine years earlier. If ever a 
time was inimical to the muses, this can be said of the years when the 
three sons of Johannes started on their careers. Nevertheless they all chose 
music as a profession. The eldest, Johann (4), born in Wechmar in 1604, 
loved accompanying his father on musical expeditions. At an early age 
he showed such skill that the town piper of the city of Suhl, a man by the 
name of Johann Christoph Hoffmann, persuaded Johannes to entrust the 
lad to him for instruction. For seven years young Johann stayed at Suhl 
as apprentice and journeyman.. He became attached to his master's 
daughter, Barbara, and ultimately married her, when he was financially 
able to do so. As a rule it was a tendency of the Bach family and, as a 
matter of fact, of the times, to marry young, but the disastrous conditions 
then prevailing in Germany forced Johann to wait until he was 3 1 years 
old. In spite of excellent qualifications, Johann was unable for some 



considerable time to find a permanent position; he drifted from Suhl to 
Schweinfurt, thence to his native village, and off again to various places, 
only to return six years later to Wechmar. He may have been connected 
with the army, for in a subsequent declaration for income tax he admitted 
possessing some money in cash, which he 'had previously earned from 
the officers.' 1 At last in 1635 he was called to the city of Erfurt. The events 
that were responsible for an opening in the town band were so typical of 
the time that they deserve mention here. Since 1631 Erfurt had had a 
Swedish garrison within its walls; but although the Swedes had come to 
help the Protestant cause and had orders to treat the Erfurt citizens in a 
friendly manner, the soldiers could not be restrained from brutality and 
the city suffered greatly at the hands of its Swedish allies. One day an 
Erfurt citizen by the name of Hans Rothlander invited a Swedish soldier 
to his house and induced the town musicians to play at his little party. 
The soldier drank too much and dozed off; when roused by his hostess, 
he thought he was being attacked. He jumped up and killed or wounded 
all within his reach. Thus the town band was depleted and Johann Bach 
got his chance. 2 

In spite of the grim reasons for his appointment, Johann must have 
been glad of the opportunity. Erfurt, with a population of 60,000 (a 
number that was to drop to 15,000 before the end of the century!), was 
one of the cultural centres of the country. It had always been a progressive 
town. One of the earliest organs in Germany was erected in the nth 
century in its church of St. Paul, and its University, founded in 1392, 
formed one of the bastions of Humanism. But since the outbreak of the 
Thirty Years War the city had suffered enormous damage, both 
economically and morally. How its funds were depleted may be seen from 
the following summary. In 1622 Erfurt had to pay 200,000 fl. (cf. note 2, 
p. 20) for the army of Duke Frederick of Altenburg; in 1625 the war 
taxes paid to the Elector of Mainz amounted to 60,000 A.; one year later 
the citizens gave 50,000 fl. to General Merode to ward off the billeting 
of his army, and in 1630 they were called on to supply 50,000 pounds of 
bread and 7000 thalers to the Emperor's general, Tilly. When ultimately 
the Swedish garrison occupied the city in 1631, it stayed there for five 
long years. The respite offered by its departure was all too short. Hostili- 
ties were soon resumed and in the following years various armies invaded 

1 Cf. Otto Rollert, 'Die Erfurter Bache,' in 'J- S. Bach in Thiiringen,' Weimar, 1950. 

2 The Genealogy claims that Johann was appointed director of the town band. Rollert, 
I.e., states, however, that although Johann Bach held a very influential position in the 
band, its nominal head was a man by the name of Christoph Volpracht. 


Erfurt. Even after the end of the Thirty Years War the ill-fated city's 
troubles were not over. In 1664 it again suffered a heavy bombardment 
and, a few years later, occupation by an imperial army. 

Through these turbulent years up to his death in 1673, Johann Bach 
remained at his post, the duties of which were manifold. In these 
dangerous times the town musicians had to 'keep watch seriously and 
diligently,' and when their suspicions were aroused, 'to blow with the 
greatest force so that all the people might take heart and grasp their 
guns.' 1 Many of the town musicians' activities helped the citizens 'to take 
heart.' The populace woke up to the sound of a chorale (a Protestant 
hymn tune) played around 3.30 a.m. by the pipers from the tower to 
signal the beginning of the day; they heard another sacred melody when 
they sat down to their noonday meal; and when a chorale sounded for 
the third time in the day, they knew it was time for bed. Great art was 
displayed in the arrangement and performance of these chorales. Johann 
Kuhnau, for instance, described the work of the Leipzig pipers in 1700 
in these words: 2 'when our town pipers blow a hymn tune from the 
tower on their sackbuts, we are all immeasurably stirred and imagine 
that we hear the angels singing.' There is reason for assuming that the 
playing of Johann Bach and his colleagues was on the same high level. 
Aware of the morale-building effect of music, the Council, in 1657, added 
a balcony to the City Hall, on which the band performed regularly on 
Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. In all these performances Johann 
Bach and his kinsmen played so decisive a part that eventually the name 
of Bach became a synonym for town musician, and maintained this 
meaning even at a time when no member of the family was living in 
Erfurt. The minutes of the City Council expressly refer to the 'local 
privileged band of town musicians or so-called Bachs,' 3 and once a man 
by the name of Tobias Sebelitzky was threatened with a fine of 5 th. if 
he engaged for his daughter's wedding musicians who did not belong 
to the town band as 'no others but the Bachs . . . were privileged to 
perform.' 4 

This decree is also interesting as proof of the authorities' endeavours 
to protect their town musicians. Playing at christenings, weddings, and 
funerals made up the larger part of their work and of their income too, 
and the rates for such performances were strictly regulated by the Council. 

1 Falckenstein, 'Civitatis Erfurtensis Historia Critica et Diplomatica,' Erfurt, 1740. 

2 Johann Kuhnau, 'Der musikalische Quacksalber,' 1700; reprint by Curt Benndorf, 1900. 

3 Stadtarchiv Erfurt, Ratsprotokolle of December 1, 171 6, 

4 Stadtarchiv Erfurt, Ratsprotokolle, 1682. 


These so-called Accidentien were especially important as the Council itself, 
owing to the tribulations of war, was often unable to pay its employees 
for years at a time, during which only the small fees collected from private 
persons kept the musicians going. In theory the regulations forbidding 
other than the town musicians to perform were very strict; in practice 
methods to bypass the law were found, and the feuds with the so-called 
'beer fiddlers' (musicians not holding any permanent appointment) were 
constantly recurring vexations in the town musicians' existence. 

Besides 'blowing' from the tower and performing at public functions 
and private festivities, the town musicians were required to play in the 
church orchestra and were supposed to master both stringed and wind 
instruments. In the case of Johann Bach, his duties at church were strictly 
regulated, as he had been since 1636 1 organist of Erfurt's Predigerkirche, a 
beautiful Gothic church of the 13th century. It speaks for the high esteem 
in which the organist was held that he succeeded in having the church's 
old organ rebuilt by the renowned master, Ludwig Compenius, an under- 
taking for which, in spite of the terrific shortage of money, the amount of 
1 46 1 fl. was raised within a short time. Though the organist knew how 
to solicit funds for an artistic purpose, he was unfortunately less able to 
look after his own needs. In 1669 Johann found it necessary to complain 
that within twenty-two years he had no more than once received the 
yearly supply of a Matter (some 250 lbs.) of grain, which constituted his 
only fixed honorarium as an organist at the daily service held at 9 a.m. 

A document like that poignantly illustrates Johann's economic status. 
He had indeed to display a maximum of resourcefulness and frugality in 
order to steer his household through those precarious times. Nevertheless 
he showed the hospitality and deep sense of responsibility to the entire 
family which we meet again and again among the Bachs. When he came 
to Erfurt, his brother Heinrich (6) stayed with him until being called to 
Arnstadt in 1641, while two brothers-in-law, Johann Christoph and 
Zacharias H. Hoffmann, studied with him for many years. 

When his first wife died giving birth to a still-born child, Johann, 
with his house full of relatives, had quickly to marry again. He chose 
Hedwig Lammerhirt, a member of the family which was to produce, to 
its lasting glory, the mother of Sebastian Bach. 

The story of the Lammerhirts bears a significant resemblance to that 
of the Bachs. Though they were apparently of Thuringian origin — their 
name occurs as early as 1419 in a village near Gotha — they lived for 

1 Spitta gives the year 1647 for Johann Bach's appointment. Johann himself, however, 
mentions the year 1636 in a tax declaration he filed. Cf. Rollert, l.c. 

in. A genealogical tree of the Bach family beginning with the year 1530 


several generations in Lower Silesia in Eastern Germany. Persecution of 
their faith forced them to leave this district just as it had driven Veit out 
of Hungary, and around 1620 they took up their residence in Erfurt, 
where the family, which followed the trade of furriers, quickly gained a 
good social standing and a modest fortune. They owned several houses 
and one of their members, Valentin Lammerhirt, was three times, in the 
years 1648, 1658, 1663, the representative of the furriers' guild in the 
City Council. He must have given his daughter, Hedwig, a good dowry, 
for she was able to buy in later years, at a price of 120 fl., the house 'The 
Three Roses' from her widowed stepmother. 

Although the Lammerhirts did not produce any professional 
musicians, it is noteworthy that several musicians married into the family. 
The example of Johann Bach was imitated by his nephew, Ambrosius 
Bach, and by a later successor to Johann Bach's position in the Prediger- 
kirche, the organist Johann Heinrich Buttstadt. Another Lammerhirt girl 
was the mother of the distinguished composer and music scholar, Johann 
Gottfried Walther. But if the Lammerhirts' musical gifts are only con- 
jectural, the family's strong religious feeling seems certain. A deeply 
mystical strain is revealed in the family's faithful attendance at the 
'Christian music' meetings conducted by Esajas Stiefel, 1 an eccentric 
heretic who was influenced by the tenets of the Anabaptists. He believed 
that every Christian should strive for direct contact with the Divine 
Spirit, and in his meetings music, composed partly by himself, was the 
principal means of attaining the ecstasy leading to union with God. 
Between the orthodox Church and Stiefel there was a continual feud, his 
ideas on the social reforms destined to establish the Kingdom of Heaven 
on Earth being particularly unpopular with the authorities. But the 
Lammerhirts held firmly to their beliefs, just as the Bachs would have 
done in a like situation; and when Stiefel was sentenced to imprisonment, 
he was able to point in his written defence to three men of the highly 
respected Lammerhirt family as his friends. A son of the heretic married 
a Lammerhirt girl and was godfather to Johann Christian Bach (7), the 
eldest surviving son of Johann and Hedwig. Undoubtedly the Lammer- 
hirts brought a new element into the Bach clan: a certain mysticism, a 
passionate striving for the inner vision of God, which was to be one of 
the wellsprings that fed Sebastian Bach's artistic personality. Whether the 
children of Johann and Hedwig showed similar traits cannot be ascertained 
to-day, but we know that they were fine musicians who upheld the tradi- 

1 Cf. P. Meder, 'Der Schwarmer, Esajas Stiefel,' in 'Jahresbericht des Erfurter 
Geschichts- und Altertum-Vereins,' 1898. 


tions started by their father. The eldest son, Johann Christian (7), bom in 
1640, held the post of director of the Erfurt town band. When he died 
in 1682 from the plague, his younger brother, Johann Egidius (8), born 
in 1645, succeeded him. These two brothers not only did similar work, 
but had as wives two sisters, daughters of the town piper Schmidt from 
Eisenach. Egidius seems to have been more versatile than Christian, for 
he held, like his father, positions both as organist and member of the 
town band. Another son, Johann Nikolaus (9), born 1653, a city musician 
like his brothers, was an excellent player of the viola da gamba, but fell 
in early years victim to the plague that also took Johann Christian. If 
these Bachs composed any music at all, it has not been preserved. Great 
creative gifts can be proved only in the following generation, in the 
person of Johann's grandson, Johann Bernhard (18). 


Johannes (2) 

I I I 

Johann (4) Christoph (5)= Maria Magdalena Heinrich (6)= Eva Hoffmann 

1604-73 1613-61 

Grabler, 1 614-61 


Joh. Ambrosius (11) 




Joh. Michael (14) Maria Catharina= Christ. Herthum Joh. Gunther (15) 
1648-94 1651-87 1651-1710 1653-83 


Joh. Christoph (22) Joh. Sebastian (24)=Maria Barbara 



1 684- 1 720 

Carl Philipp Emanuel (46) 

little is known about the life of Johann's brother, Christoph, and no 
composition of his has been preserved. He was born at Wechmar in 161 3 
and received musical instruction from his father. If we may accept the 
information given by his grandson in the Genealogy, Christoph was 
interested only in instrumental music. His first employment was as a 
'court servant' to the Duke of Weimar. This probably meant that, in 
addition to the duties of a valet or footman, he had to play in the 
sovereign's band, a combination of work frequently to be found in this 
period. About 1640 he married Maria Magdalena Grabler, a farmer's 
daughter of Prettin, Saxony, and moved to Erfurt to work with his 
brother as town musician. Here six children were born to him, among 
them three highly musical sons, one of whom was to become the father 
of Sebastian. In 1654 Christoph was called to Arnstadt as head of the 
town musicians, probably on the recommendation of his younger 
brother, Heinrich, who had been living there since 1641. Christoph's 
position corresponded in various respects to that of his kinsman and 



predecessor, Caspar Bach, but he was no longer required to do watch 
duty and to live in the tower. According to the contract signed by the 
Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt, 1 he was expected to 'serve with his 
assistants faithfully, proficiently and dutifully, both at church and at 
court, performing on viols and wind instruments.' His yearly salary 
amounted to only 35 fl., 2 from which he had also to defray his rent. For 
this pitifully inadequate cash allowance he was somewhat compensated 
by the allotment of 10 Mass (about one ton) of grain and the right to 
brew about 1100 quarts of ale taxfree. Moreover the exclusive right of 
performing at weddings and funerals was guaranteed to him. Neverthe- 
less it was hard for a large family to make ends meet, and in 1661 we see 
Christoph applying for a position in the city of Naumburg. But before this 
matter was settled he died, and only twenty-four days later his widow 
followed him. Christoph seems to have been less interesting and creative 
an artist than his two brothers. Yet the heritage he transmitted was any- 
thing but negligible. Through his marriage to the girl from Saxony he 
added important features to the Bach character. There is considerable 
divergence between the imaginative, full-blooded Thuringians and the 
more energetic and intellectual inhabitants of Saxony, and the descendants 
of Christoph and Magdalena were bound to be different from other 
branches of the clan. 

Johannes Bach's third son, Heinrich, born in 161 5, showed as a lad 
tremendous interest in the organ, and since his native village of Wechmar 
did not then possess any such instrument, he used to walk on Sundays 
for miles, just to hear an organ played in some other town. He studied 
music with his father and his eldest brother, Johann, and for six years 
worked under the latter in Erfurt, until in 1641 he was appointed organist 
in Arnstadt, an office which he held for more than fifty years. Now he 
was ready to set up a household of his own. He chose Eva Hoffmann, a 
sister of Johann's first wife, Barbara. That two brothers should marry 
two sisters was by no means unusual among the Bachs. Indeed, two sons 
of Johann as well as two sons of Heinrich imitated their father's example 
in this respect. The union of Heinrich and Eva was, in the words of the 
preacher J. G. Olearius, a 'peaceful, blessed and loving' one, which lasted 
through thirty-seven years. Eva was the daughter of the town musician 
of Suhl (cf. p. 13), and the mixture of the heritages from two musicians' 
families seems to have produced particularly favourable results, for the 

1 The complete document is reproduced in German by Wiegand, I.e. 

2 To give an idea of the value of a fl., we might mention that in 1653 1 lb. of beef cost 
20 pf., 2 lbs. of bread 1 gr., a pair of soles for men's shoes 12 gr. Cf. Rollberg in BJ, 1927. 


couple had three sons of outstanding musical talent. The father was their 
teacher and must have thoroughly enjoyed such pupils. But while life in 
all human aspects was satisfactory enough, the economic conditions 
presented grave problems. The lot of organists in Germany had never 
been a good one, and even in 1619, before the war had critically affected 
the whole economy, Michael Praetorius had to complain: 1 'It is regrett- 
able how very small are the salaries paid even in some illustrious cities 
to their masterly organists. These men can make but a wretched living 
and sometimes even curse their noble art and wish they had learned how 
to be a cowherd or some humble artisan instead of an organist.' At the 
time when Heinrich settled down in Arnstadt, the small principality was 
destitute through war taxations and other tribulations, and neither the 
Count of Schwarzburg nor the city fathers were in a position to pay their 
servants regularly. Heinrich was entitled to a salary of 52 fl. 2 a year plus 
5 fl. for rent; yet three years after his appointment he was forced to com- 
plain to the Count that he had not received any remuneration for a whole 
year, and before that had 'to beg for it almost with tears.' The treasurer, 
when ordered by the sovereign immediately to satisfy the organist, 
merely promised he would endeavour to do so, hinting that the disastrous 
state of finances made continual payments quite impossible. However, 
Heinrich somehow managed to keep his family from starvation, probably 
mainly thanks to his own piece of land; and it bears testimony to their 
resilience and vitality that of his six children five reached maturity, a feat 
rare in those times. Heinrich himself took all hardships with fortitude 
and even cheerfulness, and he was, like his great-grandson, Philipp 
Emanuel, always ready for a joke. His never-failing friendliness made him 
beloved by everybody. When he had to test a very mediocre musician 
for the work of organist in Rockhausen, he reported to the Consistory 
that the man was 'able enough for the salary allowed,' thus getting the 
applicant the position and at the same time enjoying a gentle reproach to 
the authorities for their miserable salaries. His modesty is revealed by the 
fact that only after serving for thirty-one years in Arnstadt did it occur 
to him to ask for the yearly allotment of grain which his predecessor used 
to receive. While this request was granted, his superiors were less accommo- 
dating in other respects. When Heinrich's two elder sons found positions 
in cities nearby, their father often felt tempted to visit them. Although he 
left a substitute to take care of his duties, he was reprimanded for repeated 
absences and urged not to leave the town without special permission. 

1 'Syntagma Musicum,' II/89. 

2 Subsequently he received another 20 fl. from a trust fund. 


Here we meet for the first time with a particular difficulty under which all 
the Bachs laboured. According to the custom of the time, both court and 
town musicians were greatly restricted in their movements, and the Bachs, 
who all possessed a strong sense of independence, deeply resented this 
state of affairs and transgressed again and again. From Heinrich, through 
Sebastian, to Friedemann Bach, conflicts with the authorities arose from 
such causes. 

At the age of 67 Heinrich petitioned the Consistory to appoint 
his youngest son, Johann Giinther (born 1653), his deputy. The 
authorities complied, and presently young Giinther married the daughter 
of a former mayor of the town. Their joy was not to last long, however, 
for only five months later Giinther died suddenly at the age of 30. 1 
As Heinrich was now left quite alone, his wife having died in 1679, he 
went to live with his daughter, Maria Catharina, and her husband, 
Christoph Herthum, who was both organist and kitchen-clerk to the 
Count of Arnstadt. Herthum gradually took over Heinrich's duties, as 
the old man was less and less able to move around, and was assisted in 
1689-90 by Sebastian Bach's eldest brother, Johann Christoph (22). In the 
end Heinrich was blind and bedridden, but he did not lose the composure 
that had upheld him through all the hardships of his long life. A great 
joy were his grand- and great-grandchildren (altogether twenty-eight in 
number), who read his favourite religious works to him. When he felt 
his end near, he wrote to the Count on January 14, 1692: 

'Through God's graciousness I have for more than fifty years been 
organist here, but for some time I have been laid up and I am now 
expecting a blissful ending from God. During my illness my son-in-law 
has done my work to the satisfaction of your Lordship, the ministers, and 
the whole community. After my death the service will have to be entrusted 
to a suitable person, and as I am daily expecting my blissful passing, I 
have wanted to present my humble request on my deathbed . . . that your 
Highness shall be pleased to favour your kitchen-clerk with this position, 
on account of his well-known perfection and outstanding art, and make 
him my successor before I depart. Such graciousness will give me 
particular joy and consolation in my miserable condition, and I will not 
fail, while I am still alive, most humbly to implore the Highest day and 

1 His widow, Barbara Margaretha, married one year later an Arnstadt clergyman, 
whom she lost after four years. She let six years elapse and then married another Bach, 
Ambrosius, the father of Sebastian. Again misfortune struck and she lost her third husband 
two months after the wedding. 


night that He shall bless your Lordship and keep your Lordship and his 
gracious spouse in good health and long life.' 

The matter-of-fact way in which Heinrich refers here to his forth- 
coming death is highly characteristic of this deeply religious man, and 
of the period in which he lived. His intense preoccupation with death 
(which we shall find again in his grand-nephew, Sebastian) is also revealed 
by the fact that as long as Heinrich could move about he attended every 
funeral, even that of the poorest person. The last wish of the old organist 
was fulfilled and Herthum was appointed his substitute cum spe succedendu 
A few months later Heinrich was 'gently and blissfully called from this 
temporary abode' (Olearius). Hardly ever had a funeral in the little town 
been so well attended as that of the beloved musician. 

Artistically, Heinrich's interest centred round keyboard instruments. 
It is probable that he performed on the clavier when he was called to 
Court, but his main occupation was that of playing the organ in Arnstadt's 
two big churches, the Oberkirche and Liebfrauenkirche, and he enjoyed a 
very great reputation as an outstanding virtuoso. The work of an 
organist in those times was highly responsible. He had not only to accom- 
pany, but frequently to conduct the chorus. He was expected to be 
thoroughly familiar with the old traditional music, and at the same time 
to master the new forms introduced from Italy, and elsewhere. Great 
skill in improvising fugues and chorale variations was required of him, 
and a candidate had to prove his craftsmanship and superior knowledge 
in this respect before he was appointed to a more important position. 1 
All this Heinrich Bach did to perfection and he was not only a master of 
improvisation, but, as Emanuel Bach, his great-grandson, proudly 
proclaimed, 'a good composer.' 


The Baroque period, covering the phase from the end of the 16th to 
the middle of the 18th century, showed in the field of music numerous 
features distinguishing it from the preceding Renaissance. 

The compositions displayed a new quality of excitement and strong 
emotionalism. Sharp dissonances never before used to such an extent 

1 Cf. Arno Werner in SIMG, IX, 310 and foil. 


were now employed, and the halftone progressions of chromaticism began 
to play an important part in the melodic language. Contrary to the calm 
evenness of the Renaissance music, the Baroque period tended towards 
dramatic changes in tempo and dynamics. The pleasure taken in rhythmic 
and colouristic variety led to a predilection for the variation-form, which 
at the same time satisfied an urge for structural unity. Once more com- 
posers discovered the unlimited potentialities of the solo human voice, 
both for dramatic expression and for producing beautifully sounding 
tunes. The highest part, the melody, became a dominating factor in every 
composition; but it had to share the limelight with the sustaining bass, 
the basso continuo, the performers of which were also entrusted with the 
improvisation of the filling middle parts. 

Strong contrasts were used throughout the works of art. Baroque 
music might be sweet and tender, and then again powerful and monu- 
mental. The bowed string instruments, and in particular the violin, which 
matched the human voice in mellowness and expressiveness of tone, 
became the favourites of the period; at the same time the musical palette 
was enriched by the construction of the mighty double bassoon and the 
contrabass trombone. The stile concertato with its vigorously competing 
sound groups played a prominent part both in instrumental and vocal 
music, in secular as well as in sacred compositions. 

Protestant church music, on which the first masters of the Bach 
family concentrated, was bound to show the main features of Baroque 
art. It is true that the novel ideas emanating from Italy reached Germany, 
and especially its smaller cities, only several decades later; nevertheless 
the cantors and organists of little Thuringia were as eager to keep up 
with the progressive trends in music as their colleagues in larger centres. 
The core of the Lutheran service was formed by the German hymns, 
called chorales, as they were sung in unison or choraliter by the congrega- 
tion. The finest of these texts and tunes originated in the 16th century, 
but all through the Baroque period additions were made, with new tunes 
frequently derived from secular sources. In particular the sacred aria, a 
hymn assuming a more personal and subjective character, was cultivated 
by 17th-century composers. 

The motet in which each voice could be sung, although the reinforce- 
ment by instruments was favoured, also went back to Renaissance sources. 
Nevertheless the frequent use of two competing choruses, and the 
dramatic combination of Bible-word and hymn texts were dictated by the 
spirit of the Batoque. Most exciting were those motets in which one 
voice presented in long-extended notes a chorale melody with its words, 


while at the same time a text from the Gospel was interpreted by the rest 
of the singers. 

The connection with the past was less noticeable in those vocal com- 
positions which also prescribed independent instrumental parts. The 
sacred concerto sometimes made use of traditional chorale melodies, and 
at others it was freely invented. The treatment of the human voices was 
more brilliant than in the motets, with ample opportunities for the display 
of technical skill and an individual interpretation of the text. The instru- 
ments were no longer confined to mere accompaniment. They alternated 
with the voices, and a purely instrumental introduction to a concerto was 
not unusual. In its numerous forms — for a single voice, as a dialogue, or 
as a composition for three and more solo voices, mostly with chorus — 
it paved the way for the great church cantatas of the 18th century. 

In their compositions of pure instrumental music, the Bachs confined 
themselves to works for the keyboard, intended mainly for the church. 
It had been an old habit of the Lutheran service that not all the countless 
verses of a hymn were sung by the congregation. Some of them were 
performed by the chorus, others by the organist, in a more or less poly- 
phonic setting. For such purposes the great masters of the 17th century 
wrote whole sets of chorale-variations to be played on the organ, as well 
as individual chorale-preludes, resembling a single one of these variations. 

It is noteworthy that such chorale preludes often display the same 
construction as the chorale-motet, just as the instrumental fugues of the 
time resemble their vocal counterparts. Variations on a chorale, to be 
played in church on an organ, use a technique similar to that of variations 
on a dance-tune meant for secular purposes and employing a stringed 
clavier. As organ music of the 17th century usually has no separate pedal 
parts, modern research students often find it quite difficult to determine 
whether a composition was meant for the 'king of instruments' or for a 
clavier equipped with strings. 

Altogether the ambiguousness and interchangeability of musical 
idioms which is still noticeable in the works of Sebastian Bach constitute 
one of the most intriguing aspects of this music. 

Three compositions by Johann Bach have been preserved in the Alt- 
Bachisches Archiv, a collection of Bach works started by Ambrosius Bach 
and continued by his son, Sebastian. The invaluable documents were 
passed on to Philipp Emanuel Bach and after his death came into the 
possession of one Georg Polchau and Goethe's friend, Carl Friedrich 
Zelter. These two men authorized in 1821 a first publication of nine of 
these pieces through Johann Friedrich Naue, music director of the Halle 


University. His edition is unfortunately marred by numerous omissions, 
arbitrary additions, and even changes of the names of the composers. 
Nevertheless, for almost a century it was the main source for knowledge 
of the music of the older Bachs, since the original manuscripts were 
transferred to the Berlin Singakademie, whence they mysteriously dis- 
appeared. They were rediscovered at the end of the First World War 
through the efforts of Max Schneider. His publication of numerous scores 
in EDM i and 2 (1935) offers a solid basis for the research on 
Sebastian's ancestors. 

Simplest in character is Johann Bach's aria for four voices Weint 
nicht um meinen Tod (Don't mourn my death). The brief melody used 
for each of the nine verses of the text is harmonized in a completely 
homophonic four-part style. Obviously it can also be performed as a 
piece for soprano solo with organ accompaniment. The unassuming com- 
position with its attractive, partly modal chord sequences, displays both 
simple dignity and beauty. The constant changes of its free rhythms 
provide the melody with inner life and unfettered pulsation {Ex 1). 


"Weini nichtum mei. nen Tod, icli Tiai' in fro . Acn Sit. gen nun vol . lig u . btr.stie . _ yen 

The flexible declamation in this aria contrasts favourably with the 
monotonous isometric chorales of a later generation, which give to each 
note the same length. 

Johann's eight-part motet for two choruses Sei nun wieder ^ufrieden 
(Be contented again; Schn. 1 30) was published by Naue, in the early 19th 
century, as a composition by Johann Michael Bach, although the original 
parts clearly indicate the authorship of the older composer. Besides, the 
simple and austere style of the composition distinguishes it from the 
smoother and more elaborate writings of Johann Michael. The composer 
uses a purely homophonic technique, similar to that of the aria, but there 
are no strophic repetitions of the tune. As soon as the whole text has been 
dealt with, the motet abruptly reaches its end. The composition derives 
its effect mainly from the contrast in tone-colour produced by the employ- 
ment of two choruses of four voices each. One is a higher-pitched group 
of two sopranos, one alto and one tenor; the other a lower-pitched group 
of an alto, two tenors and a bass. Each part of the higher chorus is re- 

1 The works of the older Bachs are quoted according to Schneider's catalogue in 
BJ, 1907 (see list of Abbreviations). Weint nicht um meinen Tod is missing in this 



inforced by an instrument, presumably stringed, while there is no re- 
inforcement of the lower chorus. 1 This work is of solid craftsmanship, 
although the absence of a clear formal construction somewhat weakens 
its effectiveness. 

On quite a different level is the third composition of Johann Bach, 
the chorale motet Unser Leben ist ein Schatten (Our life is but a shadow ; 
Schn. 31), a work of weird grandeur. This piece too was wrongly edited 
by Naue as a work of Johann Michael Bach, although the original score 
is unmistakably initialed with 'J- B.' and the starkly monumental character 
of the music should have warned the editor that it is the product of an 
earlier generation. Following the general tendency of the time, Johann 
effectively combines Bible texts and church hymns. The whole motet is 
constructed in a sort of rondo form, with three chorales separating the 
hymn quotations from the Scriptures. The contrast between two strongly 
differentiated choruses is again employed. The main group of singers con- 
sists of six parts, two sopranos, one alto, two tenors and one bass, while 
the second chorus employs only one alto, tenor and bass voice each. A 
most unusual feature of this motet is the composer's own designation of the 
small choral group as chorus latens (hidden chorus). The six-part chorus 
begins with a description of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, 


iin . ser Le. ben ist ein Sctiai: 

v v ft ' r 

ein Sch&i.ien, 

offering a weirdly realistic picture of quickly moving and vanishing 
shadows (Ex. 2). This sinister picture is interrupted by the hidden 

1 Max Schneider, who edited the motet in EDM, assumed that all the voices were to 
be doubled by instruments. This does not seem correct, since the catalogue of the Alt- 
Bachisches Archiv, printed in the list of Philipp Emanuel's estate, clearly indicates that the 
composition was written 'for 8 vocal parts and 4 instruments.' The old parts which are our 
source for knowledge of the composition, contain 2 instrumental parts for the sopranos. 
As the 4 voices of each chorus always appear as a compact unit and are never separated, it 
seems obvious that the remaining 2 instruments were used to reinforce alto and tenor in 
the first chorus. Our assumption that strings were employed is based on the Bachs' apparent 
preference for this type of instrument. 


chorus, intoning, like a congregation in a distant church, the comforting 
message: 'In the darkness of the grave Jesus is my shining light' 
(fourth and fifth stanzas of the chorale Ach was soil ich Sunder 
The group of dejected men seem to derive consolation from this 
heavenly message, and in complete rapture they repeat the last words 
of the prophecy. The terror of the beginning is replaced by quiet confi- 
dence when the main chorus sings 'I am the resurrection and the life.' 
A hymn of the hidden chorus follows, again intensified by certain repeti- 
tions through the main body. With the words 1 depart' the vision 
of the distant congregation disappears and once more earth seems drab 
and full of menace. From here to the end the hopeless mood of the 
beginning dominates the work. The last words of the composition seem 
to have come out of the very heart of a man who had witnessed the 
horrors of unending war: 

O Lord teach us to know that we are mortal, 

That we cannot stay on this earth, 

And must all go; 

The learned, the rich, the beautiful, 

They must all go, all go. 

Striking, like the whole of this dramatic and unconventional composition, 
is also its ultimate measure. After all the other voices have ceased, the 
two sopranos repeat the words 'all go' (davon) like a last sigh {Ex. 3). 


dlt . dtr schonjnus.sen a.1 .le l, dl . le da.. von, da. von 


da - yon 

With a feeling of envy and frustration the music lover reads in the 
funeral sermon by Olearius of the different chorales, motets, concertos, 
preludes and fugues produced by Heinrich Bach. Of all the numerous 
compositions which the Arnstadt organist is bound to have accumulated 
during a long and laborious existence devoted to music, only a single one 
has been preserved. 1 This, however, is a powerful work, worthy in every 
respect of the high reputation enjoyed by its composer. Ich danke dir, Gott 
(I thank Thee, God; Schn. 1) is an excellent specimen of the stile concertato. 

1 The lament Ach dass ich W assets gnug hdtte, listed in 1907 by Schneider as a work 
of Heinrich Bach, has in the meantime been recognized as a composition of his son, Johann 
Christoph (cf. p. 52). The two chorale preludes, Christ lag in Todesbanden and Erbarm 
dich mein, edited by Ritter and others as works by Heinrich Bach, are by a composer with 
the initials J. H. B. (possibly Johann Heinrich Buttstadt), but not by Heinrich Bach. 


There is a harmonious contest, a permanent rivalry between different 
sound groups. Under the influence of sacred concertos by Scheidt, Schiitz, 
and others, older forms of church composition are here gradually 
assuming features of the 1 8th-century cantata. The human voices do not 
dominate the composition as they did in the aria and motets by Johann 
Bach; four instruments, two violins and two viols, are assigned important 
parts. The vocal body is subdivided into a small group of solo singers or 
favoriti and a larger chorus of accompanying ripieni, each consisting of five 
parts, viz. two sopranos, an alto, a tenor and a bass. Most of the musical 
development is entrusted to the instruments and to the favoriti, while the 
ripieni are employed only as an occasional reinforcement. A spirited 
competition between upper and lower voices may already be observed 
in the bright and gay instrumental Sinfonia serving as an introduction to 
the work. The following vocal section introduces a powerful homophonic 
setting of the words 'I thank Thee, God,' in which the whole body of 
sound is employed. Then the favoriti take over, using a transparent style, 
rich in sparkling coloraturas and not unlike the performance of instru- 
mental soloists in a contemporary concerto grosso {Ex. 4). At key 

diss Jf?i wu n - - - - der_,wm3_-_. . .der. ha.T.lich gi.mzckl bin, 

vim .dcr.baT.lich gem&Al da£s icA vim der-,wim. . . ' dcr- t d&is ithmin . . .. der. 

points of the composition, especially whenever the name of the Lord 
is mentioned, and at the end of the'cantata, the full assembly of singers 
and] players r is united in vigorous plain chords. Heinrich's unusual 
technical skill, but more still the emotional fervour and unshakable trust 
in God expressed in this composition, make it one of the most significant 
works of the older Bach generation. 


Heinrich (6) 

Joh. Christoph (13) 
1 642- 1 703 

Maria Elisabeth Wedemann 
1 646- 1 703 

Joh. Giinther (15) 

Joh. Michael (i4) = Catharina Wedemann 



Maria Barbara=Joh. Sebastian (24) 
1684-1720 1685-1750 

Joh. Nicolaus (27) Joh. Christoph (28) Joh. Friedrich (29) Joh. Michael (30) 
1669-1753 1 676-? 1 682- 1 730 1 68 5-? 

the scene now shifts to the little town of Eisenach, beautifully situated 
at the north-west end of the Thuringian forest, and dominated by the 
imposing medieval castle of the Wartburg. 1 Eisenach was from 1662 to 
1 74 1 the capital of a miniature duchy which had come into existence 
through the partition of the estate of the Prince of Weimar, and its rulers 
did their best to act like great sovereigns and patrons of the arts. This was 
not easy, as the pocket-size territory did not admit the raising of heavy 
taxes, and the private means of the ducal family were very limited. Thus 
it came about that many interesting personages were invited to Eisenach, 
who after a short stay decided to move to another place which offered 
more scope for their talents and better financial opportunities. At four 
different times 2 the Dukes secured the service of the violinist, Daniel 
Eberlin, a gifted man with a most unusual career that included, besides 
musical activities, a captainship of papal troops fighting the Turks, and 
work as a banker in Hamburg. At Eisenach Eberlin held the posts of 
private ducal secretary and conductor, and at one time even that of 
director of the ducal mint. In 1677 Johann Pachelbel, the great organist 

1 For a poetical description of Eisenach and the Wartburg, cf. W. G. Whittaker, 
'The Bachs and Eisenach,' in 'Collected Essays,' London, 1940. (See also 111. V.) 

2 Cf. Wilhelm Greiner, 'Die Musik im Lande Bachs,' Eisenach, 1935. 



and composer, joined the court orchestra as 'Musicus,' but moved as early 
as 1678 to Erfurt. Later the ruler succeeded in engaging as conductor 
Pantaleon Hebenstreit, a renowned dancing master and inventor of the 
'Pantaleon,' a kind of dulcimer, which created a sensation at the court of 
Louis XIV. Hebenstreit put up with Eisenach from 1706 to 1709, and was 
followed by no less a master than Georg Telemann, who remained in 
the little Residenz for four years. 

The Eisenach authorities in their search for musical talent did not, of 
course, overlook the Bach family. Heinrich's reputation as a masterly 
organist had travelled far beyond Arnstadt, and when in 1665 the death 
of the city organist created an opening, Heinrich's eldest son, 2 3 -year- 
old Johann Chris toph (13), who worked as court organist in Arnstadt, 
was invited for the customary trial performance. The young musician 
passed the test with flying colours, but had to get permission from his 
patron, the Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt, before accepting the new 
position. He submitted therefore a petition 1 in which he explained that 
the Eisenach appointment had come about without any special effort on 
his part and therefore might be regarded as an act of divine providence. 
For his successor he suggested his younger brother, Johann Michael, an 
arrangement acceptable to the Count, who liked to see a member of the 
Bach family in this position and conferred it on Heinrich Bach's son-in- 
law, Christoph Herthum, when Michael moved to Gehren in 1673. Thus 
Johann Christoph was duly appointed Eisenach's city organist, which 
meant that he had to play in the three churches of the town, in particular 
in the Georgenkirche. The city fathers must have been well pleased indeed. 
Here was a young and extremely able musician, who had been brought 
up and trained by a man generally beloved for his great art and his gentle, 
modest nature as well. They were in for some surprises, however. 
Artistically everything was satisfactory, of course; the organist was not 
merely capable, he was brilliant. On the other hand, young Bach showed 
a disappointing unwillingness to put up with the hardships of an 
organist's position in an impecunious little town. On October 10, 1670, 
he complained to the superintendent in no uncertain words : 2 

'As is well known to your Honour, the complete salaries of the church 
employees are payable at the end of the year only. ... I was therefore 

1 The document (Thiiringisches Staatsarchiv, Rudolstadt, Sign. 679) was only 
recendy unearthed and kindly supplied to me by Mr. Fritz Wiegand, Stadtarchivar, 

2 Superint. Archiv Eisenach: B 25 B 1, Bl. 4, where all the documents referring to 
Johann Christoph, unless otherwise mentioned, are preserved. 


instructed by the Honoured Council to collect 10 fl. in quarterly instal- 
ments from the Hospital-Bursar, Joseph Herman, to defray the bare 
necessities of life until the entire salary became due at Michaelmas day. 
With sadness I have to report, however, that this sum can be obtained 
only very slowly from the Hospital-Bursar. Either he sends me to another 
place, or he holds out hopes for the future, and he is so dilatory with 
his payment that one loses one's credit with honest people. ... As it 
is very hard for me to subsist with my family, having no income what- 
ever beside my salary, I cannot help informing your Honour of these 
facts. ... So far, whenever an instalment has been due, I have been 
obliged to send for this money so often that I felt ashamed. I hope 
your Honour will help to redress this as I have had to report it out of 
urgent need.' 

We don't know whether Johann Christoph's request was granted, but 
judging from subsequent documents in Eisenach's archives, it seems that 
the authorities did not care for their organist's far too outspoken approach. 
From the year 1679 another lengthy complaint to the Consistory is 
preserved. This time the organist deplored his inability to collect the 
Accidentien, viz. the fees to which he was entitled for playing at funerals, 
weddings, or christenings. Only too often, he claimed, the bereaved one, 
the bridegroom, or the happy father found some way of slipping out of 
his obligation, forgetting to remunerate the organist at all, or paying him 
only part of the amount prescribed. Johann Christoph claimed that no 
less than 46 fl. 20 gr. (almost half as much as his basic yearly salary) was 
outstanding from such sources. But he was not satisfied just to complain; 
he felt he ought to advise his superiors how to remedy the abuse. Why 
could not the written confirmation of published banns be handed to the 
prospective couple only after they had paid the fee for the organist? The 
Consistory, however, apparently did not like to receive advice from Mr. 
Bach. So matters went on as before and petitions survive from a later date 
to show that Johann Christoph was again airing his grievances about un- 
paid wedding fees. On this occasion he pointed out that whenever needy 
persons were concerned he would gladly waive his fee, provided the 
other church employees were willing to do the same. 

Numerous other documents reveal the organist's eternal problem of 
finding suitable living quarters. While the house in Arnstadt known as 
that of Heinrich Bach was occupied by him throughout the greater part 
of his long life, Johann Christoph changed his domicile again and again. 
Excerpts from a long petition he wrote on February 15, 1692, to the 

iv. Hans Bach. Engraving, 1617 








C/J li C/3 

re p 3 



re ! — i 

c -£ 
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^ Oh 

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£ o 

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.52 bD 

. re 

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Burgomaster and City Council will illustrate the wretched position of 
the organist: 

'It is well known to your Honour that while being in your Honour's 
service for the past twenty -seven years, I have often besought your 
Honour for a free lodging. I was, however, unfortunate in not achieving 
my aim, and have, to my gravest detriment and misery, been forced to 
move from one place to another. After living in ten different rented 
houses, I felt no longer able to bear such unsettled conditions and decided 
to buy a place of my own. As I had no means available to pay the deposit, 
until an inheritance from my hometown of Arnstadt came my way [this 
matter-of-fact reference to the impending death of his father is quite in 
accordance with the general attitude of the time!], I had to borrow the 
capital at interest. Afterwards I had to pay for indispensable repairs to the 
house, and as my creditors insist on payment, while the expected remit- 
tance [from Arnstadt] has not arrived, I am again cast out of this house, 
with what despair, your Honour, knowing my domestic circumstances, 
can well imagine. ... I am aware, of course, that I was favoured only 
recently with an increase in salary. On the other hand your Honour 
knows that from 1677 onward more work has been given me on Wednes- 
days and Thursdays [at prayer hours and confession service], which I had 
to undertake for several years without receiving further benefit, and I 
therefore cannot assume that this [recent increase] will now be held 
against me. . . .' 

And then, in the typical Johann Christoph Bach manner, which was so 
irritating to his superiors, he suggested that the house occupied by a 
certain teacher of a German school 1 should be vacated and given to him; 
he was even undiplomatic enough to mention the necessity of making 
some important repairs and adding a cellar. 

The City Council failed to be impressed by the organist's plea, 
although the Ducal Consistory and even the Duke himself intervened in 
his favour. The Council felt that Bach had a salary on which he could 
'honestly subsist in an orderly life and household,' while the city funds 
were depleted and the house in question could not possibly be vacated. 
Nevertheless Johann Christoph tenaciously fought on, and even after 
he had wrenched a contribution of 10 th. toward his rent from the tight- 
fisted Council, the correspondence between the city and the Duke on 
his behalf continued. At last the city fathers cut off any further discussion 

1 The leading school was Eisenach's Latin school, besides which there existed some 
German schools. 


by observing spitefully: 'Perhaps the alleged afflictions are due to a dis- 
orderly household. It would be good if Bach had administered the alms 
more satisfactorily and not employed them adproprios usus [for his private 
good],' a remark implying that the organist had at some time treated the 
charitable gifts he collected for the church as an advance on his out- 
standing salary. 

The Duke, however, did not take this accusation seriously. He was 
far more aware of the organist's artistic importance than the city fathers, 
and was therefore intent on helping him. Since 1690 he had paid Johann 
Christoph a separate salary for service in the ducal band. When in 1694 
the organist's family was stricken by serious illness, 1 he sent them food 
and firewood, continuing such contributions at regular intervals through- 
out the following year. Finally he found a way to satisfy the artist's great 
wish. The ducal mint building had been vacated in 1694, when the 
sovereign decided not to have money minted there, after various super- 
visors had been found guilty of dishonesty. 2 In this house seven rooms, 
attic, and stables were in 1796 put at the disposal of the overjoyed Johann 
Christoph, who believed that his troubles were now over. However, 
Duke Johann Georg II died two years later and his successor, Johann 
Wilhelm, decided to restore the mint building to its former use, with the 
result that in 1700 the unlucky organist again had to start househunting. 
To soften the blow, the new ruler conferred on Johann Christoph the 
title of ducal chamber musician and allowed him a yearly salary of 24 th., 
plus a single payment of 12 th. for a uniform, and certain supplies of 
firewood, rye, and barley. 3 Moreover he urged the City Council to grant 
the organist a loan of 300 th. for the purpose of buying a certain house 
Johann Christoph wished to acquire. The Council, unco-operative as 
ever, refused, but suggested three other houses mortgaged to the Duke, 
each of which could be purchased very cheaply if the Duke waived his 
claims. These, however, did not suit the stubborn organist, and so the 
struggle with the equally stubborn Councillors went on, until in 1702 a 
compromise was reached and Johann Christoph again had a house of his 

1 Johann Christoph complained in a letter to the Duke that his house looked like a 
hospital, and the church entries reveal that in October 1694 six persons in the organist's 
household were given private communion. It is also significant that Johann Christoph's 
third son was 234 times absent during the school -year 1693-94, while the youngest did not 
attend school at all in 1695. Cf. Helmbold in BJ, 1930. 

2 Cf. Friedrich Schafer, 'Der Organist Johann Christoph Bach und die Eisenacher 
Munze,' Luginsland, 1929. 

3 In the decree mention is made of the organist's 'wretched condition.' Cf. No. 471 in 
Weimarer Archiv, Eisenacher Dienersachen. 


own. But he was not to enjoy it for long; one year afterwards the artist 
died at the age of 61. The funeral sermon was preached on the text by 
Paul Gerhardt: The head, the feet, and the hands are glad that now the 
end of toiling has come.' The choice seems appropriate, for Johann 
Christoph must have been worn out from continuous petty worries. 

It is not a pretty story, this life of an artist who may be considered the 
greatest Bach before Sebastian. The numerous documents preserved 1 
paint a tragic picture of ever-recurring financial troubles and desperate 
attempts to solve them, attempts which entangled the artist more and 
more. At the time he died, he had, for instance, received his salary for 
three years in advance, probably in order to pay for his house. It seems 
as though the artist had never led anything but a harassed existence. Yet 
his salary was not bad, as salaries went in those days. He had 116 fl. a 
year from the city, plus the customary Accidentien and the salary from 
the Duke. This was by no means a starvation income and his father had 
subsisted on much less. But Johann Christoph, conscious of his artistic 
mastery, felt himself entitled to a better way of life. When he was estab- 
lished in Eisenach and thus able to marry, he chose as his bride Maria 
Elisabeth Wedemann, who came from a family of higher social standing. 
His father-in-law was town clerk and syndic of Arnstadt, and a brother- 
in-law was to be mayor of the town. An invitation to the wedding has 
been preserved and it seems that a rather elaborate feast took place in 
honour of the occasion. Moreover in Eisenach the couple aimed at a 
standard of living superior to that of their colleagues. For instance the 
house Johann Christoph owned in 1679 was so large that he had to pay 
four times as much tax on it as was assessed on his cousin Ambrosius' 
property. 2 In the schooling of his children too Johann Christoph did not 
conform to custom. While most musicians took their sons out of the 
Latin school at the age of 14 or 15 in order to apprentice them with a 
member of their profession, two sons of the organist stayed there up to 
the age of 21 and 20 respectively, and the eldest even went to the Univer- 
sity of Jena, an enterprise on which no other Bach of his generation had 
ventured. All this must have seemed somewhat presumptuous to the 
Eisenach Council and it served to aggravate still further the city fathers' 
feelings against their difficult employee. He was certainly anything but 
popular with the city authorities; yet they did not allow him to take 
another post. Johann Christoph once had a chance to leave the stifling 

1 The basic research was made by Schumm and Rollberg. Cf. Bibliography. 

2 Cf. Tax registers for 1679. The organist paid 1 fl. 6 gr. 6 pf., while Ambrosius 
paid 6 gr. 


atmosphere of Eisenach, being offered in 1686 the position of town 
organist in the city of Schweinfurt. He accepted joyfully, but had to 
write a few weeks later that neither the Council nor the Duke of Eisenach 
was willing to grant him permission to leave. 1 

Only in one respect was a satisfactory intercourse maintained between 
the Council and the organist. The authorities could not help being im- 
pressed by Johann Christoph's continuous endeavours on behalf of the 
organ entrusted to his care. The instrument of St. George's built in 1576 
was proving more and more inadequate. In the first decades of his service, 
the organist merely succeeded in having the worst defects repaired, but 
ultimately he convinced the Council that a thorough rebuilding of the 
instrument was imperative. His own draft of the contract with the organ 
builder, Georg Christoph Stertzing, dated March 19, 1696, is preserved. 2 
It comprises ten pages and offers an interesting insight into Johann 
Christoph's mastery of the subject. But even when the draft was accepted, 
the organist did not feel quite satisfied. He continued pondering the 
problem of how to get a really first-rate instrument, and in the following 
months he presented so many additional suggestions, that the Council 
eventually voted on ordering a new instrument from Stertzing, using 
only some material from the old organ. Johann Christoph not only 
worked out all the specifications, 3 but tried to obtain better performing 
conditions for the church musicians. He urged the 'building of a so-called 
half-moon (in front of the organ), such as was found in other high-class 
churches' and the addition of 'two little choir-lofts on both sides of the 
half-moon. This would provide in the nicest manner for the performance 
of two-chorus motets, a convenience never yet enjoyed in Eisenach.' 
When he submitted his last project for improvement on October 30, 1697, 
he made the following, very characteristic remarks: 'There is no profit 
for myself in this, but I have the interests of the church, the town, and 
the organ at heart, and I take care of the instrument as though I were to 
play it in all eternity. ... As we have now come so near to having an 
exquisite organ, it would be a shame not to afford the little that is still 
necessary. After all, the money for this is not needed right away; there is 
still time to obtain it. Thus we shall, with God's help, get a very fine 
instrument, which will bring us fame and honour far and wide, especially 

1 Three letters on this matter are preserved in copies in the Bach Museum of 
Eisenach, according to kind information by the Curator, Dr. Conrad Freyse. 

2 Cf. Werner Wolffheim, 'Die alte Orgel zu St. Georg in Eisenach,' Eisenacher 
Tagespost, 191 1, and Hans Loffler, 'Nachrichten uber die St. Georgenkirche in Eisenach,' 
in 'Zeitschrift fur evangelische Kirchenmusik,' IV, V. 

3 They were reproduced in Adlung's 'Musica mechanica organoedi,' 1768. 


with organ and music experts, while other towns in the neighbourhood 
won't be pleased about it. As for myself, I will . . . gladly do my share 
and advise the builder regarding this or that stop, so that each is accurately 
measured, correctly pitched, and all the notes within each stop are of 
equal tone, and well-sounding. For whenever you find a well planned 
fine organ, good organists flock to it. Indeed, an instrument of such a kind 
makes good organists. How greatly would it have helped me in my work 
and profession, had I had since 1665 such an organ under my hands!' 

Johann Christoph's characteristic insouciance in money matters for 
once proved justified; for when in 1698 a general collection was started 
for St. George's new organ, an amount of 3047 th. was obtained, which 
by far exceeded the actual costs. Thus the organist's plans could be 
executed in full. No one was happier about that than their instigator; but 
he was not spared to witness the completion of the large project. On 
February 23, 1703, he was still writing to the Council regarding some 
details of the construction; on March 3 1 he breathed his last, four years 
before the work on his organ was finished. 

Johann Christoph was in many respects a forerunner of his second 
cousin, Sebastian, with whom he has more traits in common than 
Sebastian's own father. In profundity and creative originality he among 
all the older members of the clan came nearest to the culminating genius 
of the family; even their handwriting reveals a certain similarity. 
Moreover Johann Christoph's fighting spirit, stubbornness, and lack of 
diplomacy in his dealings with his superiors, clearly recur in Sebastian. 
But there was one tragic difference. Sebastian had the driving power to 
start a new life when he felt this to be beneficial to his development and 
career. Fighting against heavy odds, including imprisonment, he wrenched 
himself free and changed his appointments. Johann Christoph, tied by the 
conceptions of his family and his generation, gave in when a supreme 
effort was imperative. Thus he stayed for 38 years in Eisenach, where his 
art found little recognition and even his performances suffered from an 
inadequate instrument; and these uncongenial surroundings made him 
dissatisfied and unsuccessful in his dealings with the outside world. 

About Johann Christoph's sons little is known, but the little seems 
significant. All four were musicians. Two appear to have inherited the 
father's restlessness and desire for change, while each of the other two 
held one and the same position throughout his life. Johann Christoph the 
younger (28) was in Northern Germany when his father died. He applied 
for the position in Eisenach, but the Council decided on another Bach, 
Johann Bernhard (18), who had made a name for himself in the city of 


Magdeburg. It may be doubted whether young Johann Christoph was 
really unhappy about this slight, for according to the Genealogy he 
'found his greatest pleasure in travelling.' He did not even stay in 
Germany, but went to Holland and eventually settled down as a clavier 
teacher in England. His youngest brother, Johann Michael (30), a trained 
organ builder, was also not content to live in Thuringia. He went to 
Northern Europe and was not heard of again. About the careers of the 
two steady sons of the great organist, more will be said in Part II. 

The great Johann Christoph's brother, Johann Michael (14), born 
1648, seems to have been of a less problematical nature, and to have fitted 
well into the established Bach pattern. He also received his training from 
his father, Heinrich, and was employed in Arnstadt as court organist until 
1673. In that year his uncle, Johann Bach, the head of the Erfurt branch, 
died and the organist's position at the Predigerkirche became vacant. The 
Erfurt town fathers chose Johann Effler, who had so far held the position 
of organist to the parish of Gehren near Arnstadt. This created an opening 
in Gehren, and Michael Bach, then 25 years old, was invited for a trial 
performance in this city. Afterwards a city Councillor wrote 1 to 
Michael's patron, the Count of Arnstadt, who seems to have recom- 
mended the young man for the post: 'The minister as well as the Council 
declared that Johann Michael's person and art left nothing to be desired, 
and that they owe humble thanks to your gracious Lordship for having 
presented to the community and church a discreet and well-behaved 
applicant who was experienced in his art. Therefore the Council under- 
took to grant the new organist, in addition to the regular salary provided 
for this position, the additional 10 fl. allowed to the former organist for 
his industry and merits, which payment the new organist will receive not 
only for service in church but for work as town clerk as well.' 

Michael must have made a good impression to be granted the privi- 
leges acquired by his older and more renowned predecessor. His salary 
was a comparatively good one — certainly higher than his father's — for in 
addition to a yearly amount of 73 fl. he got firewood, the use of half an 
acre of land, and various contributions of food as well as free lodging. 
Moreover he must have received payment from his former ducal patron 
as well, since he was frequently commanded to play at the Arnstadt court. 
Another source of income was opened for this versatile artist through the 
construction of instruments for the music lovers of Arnstadt and its 
vicinity. While many Bach musicians had a most thorough knowledge of 
organ building (which enabled them to make precise suggestions for the 

1 Letter dated October 13, 1673. Cf. Bitter, 'J- S. Bach,' 2nd ed., Berlin, 1881. 


repair of their instruments), Michael was an expert in clavichords and 
violins; a seal of his preserved in the Manfred Gorke collection proudly 
displays two bows and two violin scrolls. This craft was mastered also by 
his younger brother, Johann Giinther, whom the Genealogy praises as 
'a skilful builder of various newly invented instruments, 5 and by his 
nephews, Johann Nicolaus (27) and Johann Michael (30), who were 
probably trained by him. In his private life, Michael was following closely 
the model of his older brother, Johann Christoph. He married Catharina 
Wedemann, a sister of his brother's wife, and the wedding took place in 
1675, two years after Michael's appointment to the Gehren position, just 
as the elder son of Heinrich had set up his own household two years after 
getting the post in Eisenach. Here, however, the similarity between the 
lives of the two brothers ends. No son of Michael survived to carry on 
the father's work and Michael himself passed away at the age of 46, 
leaving five unmarried daughters 1 behind, the youngest of whom, Maria 
Barbara, was only 10 years old. Michael's wife survived him by ten years, 
dying on October 19, 1704. Some of the orphaned girls moved to Arn- 
stadt, and Maria Barbara stayed with her uncle and godfather, Martin 
Feldhaus, the mayor of Arnstadt, in his house inscribed 'The Golden 
Crown.' Here it was that she met her cousin and future husband, Johann 
Sebastian Bach. 


The compositions of Johann Michael and Johann Christoph are to 
each other as promise and fulfilment. The two brothers worked along 
similar lines, but in every field of composition — with possibly the single 
exception of the organ prelude — Christoph was the more successful. 
Where the short-lived younger brother tried and experimented, the elder 
achieved success. Therefore, in the discussion of their works, the logical 
rather than the historical order will be used, so that the analysis of 
Michael's compositions will precede that of his brother's works. 

There are eleven motets and five cantatas by Michael at present known, 
and they give a good idea of this interesting composer's versatility. 
Although most motets are based in the traditional manner on Biblical 
texts and chorales, they display in their treatment a surprising variety. 

Only a single work, the New Year's motet Set lieber Tag willkommen 
(Welcome, beloved day; Schn. 27) makes no use of any church hymn. 

1 Their names are given by Wiegand, I.e. 



The composition is written for two sopranos, one alto, two tenors and 
one bass, a combination not to be found in any other of the composer's 
motets. Similarly the light and transparent polyphonic setting of the piece 
with its interplay of higher and lower voices compares favourably with 
the homophonic style prevailing in Michael's motets. Near the end, at the 
word 'death,' Michael as a true composer of the Baroque period, indicates 
an impressive sudden piano. 

Completely different is the motet Nun haV ich ilberwunden (Now I 
have overcome; Schn. 32) which dispenses with any Biblical text. The 
third stanza of Melchior Vulpius' familiar hymn, Christus ) der ist mein 
Leben (For Christ my Saviour live I), is used as a text for this composition, 
written for two mixed choruses in four parts each. The beginning, with 
its eleven repetitions of the word nun (now) alternately uttered by the 
two choruses, did not present to a 17th-century audience the slightly 
humorous touch which it has for the modern listener. Such restatements 
of brief words by way of an introduction to a vocal composition were 
intended to heighten the suspense of the audience and were still used by 
Sebastian Bach (cf. p. 212). Michael's motet consists of two main sections. 
In the first the text of the chorale is divided into brief phrases, which are 
presented in the form of a dialogue with concertizing elements. The ardent 
fervour and devout strength of Michael's style is here displayed to the 
very best advantage. The second half of the motet, in which the two 
choruses join forces, employs the more familiar cantus firmus technique; 
the chorale melody is presented in long notes in the soprano part, while 
the other voices introduce counter-melodies partly derived from the 
hymn tune itself (Ex. 5). This technique is used in like manner in 
contemporary chorale preludes for the organ. 


Vim hab'ich n be, 

In each of the remaining nine motets Biblical text and church hymn 
are combined. Particularly impressive are the shorter and more condensed 
compositions such as Unser Leben wdhret sieben^ig Jahr (Our life lasts 
seventy years; Schn. 23) with the chorale Ach Herr, lass deine liebe Engelein 
(Lord Jesus, Thy dear angels send) as a cantus firmus in the soprano. The 


contrast between the two text elements, which is at first hardly notice- 
able, increases all through the motet until the last twelve measures 
represent two strictly separated worlds of heaven and earth. Weird 
scurrying and rushing takes place in the lower sphere, inspired by the 
words 'for life quickly passes, as though we were flying away.' In the 
upper realm a serene calm reigns, the soprano, in high, long extended 
notes, praising the Lord Jesus Christ. This contrast between the subjec- 
tive suffering of mankind and the objective bliss of divinity is emphasized 
by the bold use of a striking dissonance between soprano and alto 
{Ex. 6). 




de-nn es fkh . ret, denn cs fah.ret, denn « f&h . ret schntU cU . hm 

Somewhat similar in character, although not of equal dramatic power, 
is the five-part motet Das Blut Jesu Christi (The blood of Jesus Christ; 
Schn. 20) introducing one stanza from Johann Heermann's song Wo soil 
ichfliehen kin (Whither shall I flee). Here for once the composer prescribes 
the use of wind instruments as a reinforcement to the chorus. He calls for 
a Zink (a descant horn with finger holes) to play in unison with the top 
voice, and for four trombones of different sizes to support the lower 
parts. The first seventeen measures are restricted to the Biblical text. 
Here the soprano is treated like any of the other parts, and participates 
vigorously in the interpretation of the Gospel. After a short rest its 
function changes, however, and henceforth it utters the hymn tune. At 
the end of the composition fourteen measures are literally repeated, 
causing an anticlimax, of which Michael's elder brother would hardly have 
been guilty. 

Michael's familiarity with the emotional subjectivity of 17th-century 
Italian music is apparent in the five-part motet Ich weiss, class mein Erloser 
lebt (I know that my Redeemer liveth; Schn. 22), based on the passage 
from the book of Job that Handel uses in his 'Messiah.' The chorale 
Christus, der ist mein Leben (For Christ my Saviour live I) is added to the 
Scriptural text. Like the great Heinrich Schiitz, Michael allows himself to 
be inspired by the rhythm of the text and, as a result, achieves an emphatic 
and agitated style of strong expressive power. The irregular three-measure 
phrases often repeated lend an urgency and emotional appeal to the work 
found only in the best German choral compositions of the period. 


More conventional is the Christmas motet Fiirchtet euch nicht (Be not 
afraid; Schn. 34), a work of solid craftsmanship, scored for double chorus. 
At first the two groups develop the words of the angel in a simple 
homophonic dialogue of the kind to be found in the works of Hans 
Leo Hassler and Michael Praetorius. Then they join forces, and while 
the soprano introduces the chorale Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Praise 
be to Thee, Jesus Christ), the lower parts present contrapuntal counter- 

The five-part chorale motet Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe (Lord, if I 
have but Thee; Schn. 21) follows a course which is the exact opposite. 
From an initial contrast between Biblical text and chorale it gradually 
works up towards a complete unification. Michael uses five stanzas of the 
hymn Ach Gott, wie manches Her^eleid (Ah God, how sad and sick at 
heart), which is introduced in the traditional way by the soprano, while 
the lower parts present the Biblical text. Particularly impressive is the 
section preceding the third verse of the chorale, when the four deeper 
voices anticipate the melody of the hymn in the manner of a chorale 
prelude and develop it in polyphonic style. In the last stanza words from 
the Scripture are eliminated and all five voices join in a powerful harmon- 
ization of the chorale. Of peculiar charm is the quickening of the tempo, 
which the composer prescribes with the unexpected indication Presto. In 
spite of the exultant jubilation of this ending, the composer has the very 
last four measures of the motet sung piano. One cannot help being re- 
minded of another Protestant master who, some two hundred years 
later, used the same effect to end the second movement of his 'German 

A striking similarity in form may be noticed between the three motets 
for eight-part double chorus Herr, du lassest mich erfahren (Lord, Thou 
lettest me know; Schn. 35), Dem Menschen ist gesetit einmal %u sterben (It 
is the law that man must die; Schn. 36), and Halt, was du hast (Hold what 
thou hast; Schn. 33), all of which are also in the same key of e. After a 
short introduction by the second chorus, which is entrusted with the 
Biblical text, the first chorus enters with the chorale. Alternately the two 
groups present lines from their respective texts, as if vying with each 
other, until the church hymn triumphs. Near the end of each motet, the 
two choruses join forces in singing the last sentences of the hymn. The 
continual shifting of interest from one chorus to the other, the alternation 
of very short sections, and the countless echo effects, particularly in the 
last chorale verses, give these motets a quality of restlessness. 

In Herr, ich wane aufdein Heil (Lord, I wait for Thy salvation; Schn. 



37) Michael was led by a longing for death to write one of his most stirring 
compositions, solving the problem of the chorale motet in yet another 
manner. It is written for eight-part double chorus; and the text of the 
Scripture is at first, in the traditional way, entrusted to the second chorus, 
while the first chorus presents the church hymn, Ach wie sehnlich wart ich 
(Oh, how anxiously do I await). After a mere four lines of the chorale, 
the pent-up emotions become so strong that the hymn tune is altogether 
swept away. Instead of the usual ending with the glorified chorale, the 
second half of the composition calls on all the voices to join in the fervent 
supplication 'Lord, I wait for Thy salvation; oh come and take me.' The 
motet reveals Michael's gift of harmonizing melodies in a straightforward 
and convincing way, and at the same time his naive pleasure in pictorial 
characterizations such as the long melisma on 'I wait' (Ex. 7). It 
displays a simplicity and directness which cannot fail to move the listener. 



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Five vocal compositions, which have been discovered in the past few 
decades, contribute towards completing the picture of Michael Bach's 
artistic personality. In each of these a five-part string group is employed, 
besides the organ, to accompany the singers and to supply brilliant instru- 
mental preludes and interludes. In this respect the five strongly differen- 
tiated works foreshadow 18th-century cantatas. 

The simplest form is displayed in the two arias, for soprano and alto 
respectively, based on Michael's favourite Ach wie sehnlich wart ich (Oh, 
how anxiously do I await; Schn. 18) and on the hymn Auf! lasst wis den 
Herrn loben (Let us praise the Lord; Schn. 17). The accompanying string 
body consists of a violin exhibiting a certain amount of virtuosity and 
four unnamed instruments, probably three viole da gamba and a double 
bass. Each aria starts with a 'Sinfonia,' which, after a few calm measures 
of introduction, assumes a freely flowing toccata-like character. The 
hymns themselves are treated as strophic songs, and the composer avoids 
monotony by prescribing changes for the last line of each verse. In Ach 
wie sehnlich he indicates lente, while in Auf I lasst uns the triple time of the 
beginning is transformed into common time. These are pieces of simple 


and noble beauty meant for singers of modest technical skill such as the 
little parish of Gehren could muster. 

More intricate is the solo cantata Es ist ein grosser Gewinn (It is of 
great advantage; Schn. 16). Each of its three sections starts with a vocal 
solo, accompanied by the continuo instrument only, in which the soprano 
exhibits a certain amount of gorgia (the Italian coloratura singing of the 
period). Then the strings and voice take up this melody in a gay concerted 
dialogue. The instruments used in this composition are, besides organ, 
two violins, a violino piccolo and a quart violino non di grosso grande. It is 
not quite clear what Michael had in mind when he referred to the quart 
violino 'not of the large size/ but probably it was, like the violino piccolo^ 
a small violin tuned a fourth higher than the standard type. We may 
assume that the unusual way of describing the instrument is due to the 
fact that Michael built it himself in an unorthodox manner. 

Liebster Jesu, hor mein Flehen (Dearest Jesus, hear my prayer; not in 
Schneider's catalogue), written for the second Sunday in Lent, has the 
character of a dramatic dialogue between Christ (bass), the Canaanitish 
woman (soprano), and three disciples (alto and two tenors). The accom- 
panying string instruments are specifically allotted to the different 
characters: the two violins to Christ, the two violas to the Canaanitish 
woman, and the double bass to the disciples. Only in the chorale which 
concludes the dialogue are all the voices and instruments united. Latin 
headings in the score help to clarify the content of the work. After a very 
short Symphonia, the Canaanitish woman implores the Lord to save her 
daughter, who is possessed of the Devil. The three disciples intercede for 
her, and after some hesitation the Master orders Satan to relinquish his 
prey. We might well expect the stricken child's recovery of health to be 
represented in the ensuing instrumental interlude, but the alternation of 
plain chords and rests that we find there does not do justice to the situa- 
tion. The form of the epic dialogue in which Hammerschmidt, Ahle, and 
other 17th-century composers excelled, apparently did not appeal to 
Michael. The only composition of this type which has been preserved 
shows a stiff formalism not to be found in his other works. 

The most ambitious of Michael's cantatas is Ach bleib bei uns, Herr 
Jesu Christ (Abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ; Schn. 42) for two violins, 
three violas, bassoon, organ, and four-part mixed chorus, employing the 
familiar chorale text without its original tune. Bach sets each line of the 
hymn separately, as in a 16th-century motet, exploring the pictorial 
possibilities of every phrase, and paying special attention to dynamic 
shading. While such a technique is not conducive to structural unity 


within the whole cantata, it is productive of many attractive details. In 
the introductory Sonata?- the two violins and first viola develop spirited 
competition in which the vocal ensemble joins with vigour and gusto 
during the main part of the cantata. When the text refers to the 'heavenly 
word, the bright light,' Michael boldly leads the first violin up to giddy 
heights (Ex. 8). In spite of occasional awkward progressions in the 


Lieht, dem qott . Itch Worl dis 

voice and string parts, this cantata gives us a good example of the high 
standard of his technical skill, proving that he was fully conversant with 
both German polyphony and the Italian stile concertato. 

Ernst Ludwig Gerber states in his Neues Lexikon der Tonkunstler of 
1812-14 that he owned a manuscript with 72 chorale preludes by 
Johann Michael, some of them followed by as many as eight or ten 
variations. He claims further that 'there is great . . . variety among these 
preludes, and none of them is quite unworthy of the name of Bach.' This 
manuscript has unfortunately disappeared; and all we know to-day are 
eight preludes, which give only a narrowly restricted insight into this 
part of Michael's activity. 2 They show him as an organist of sound judg- 
ment and technical skill, but of limited imagination and originality. The 

1 The terms Sonata, Sinfonia, and Symphonia were used at that time indis- 
criminately for instrumental preludes. In Liebster Jesu Michael calls the introduction 
Symphonia, but writes after the first entreaty of the Canaanitish woman: Sonata 

2 An 'Aria with 15 Variations' is known only in a corrupted arrangement for 
Harmonium by L. A. Zellner from the second half of the 19th century. Since we are 
ignorant of the source of this arrangement, we cannot be sure what its original was like 
and even whether it was actually by Michael. Wilhelm Martini claims in 'Johann Sebastian 
Bach in Thiiringen' that a composition by Michael is to be found in tablature in the 
archives of the parish of Elleben at Osthausen, but I have been unable to get further 
information about it. 

4 6 


simplest form of Michael's chorale prelude is exemplified by his arrange- 
ment of Von Gott will ich nicht lassen (From God I'll not be parted; Schn. 
47). It is a three-part composition in which the soprano has the hymn 
tune, accompanied by rapidly moving counter-melodies in the two lower 
voices. An introduction of one and a half measures and a brief interlude 
are the only deviations from a plain and unassuming presentation of the 
chorale. A more personal note can be found in such arrangements as In 
dich hab' ichgehoffet, Herr (Oh Lord, as I have trusted Thee; Schn. 50) and 
Nun f rem euch, lieben Christen G'mein (Now dance and sing, ye Christian 
throng; Schn. 52), in which the entrance of the cantus firmus in the 
soprano is preceded by a fugato of the two lower parts, using as a subject 
the first line of the chorale melody. The technique of Pachelbel, with 
whom the Bach family was on terms of personal friendship, is unmistak- 
able in this arrangement. Particularly impressive, in In dich hab' ich 
gehoffet, Herr, is the gradual increase from three parts in the first half of 
the composition to four and ultimately five voices, corresponding to the 
emotional content of the hymn text. In Dies sind die heiVgen ^ehn Gebot 
(These are the holy ten commandments; Schn. 49) and Allein Gott in der 
Hoh ' (To God on high alone be praise; Schn. 5 1) an attempt is made to 
use a more polyphonic style for the preludes and interludes, contrasting 
with a predominantly harmonic setting in the cantus firmus sections. 
Possibly the finest work in this group is Wenn mein Stiindlein vorhanden 
ist (When finally my hour comes; Schn. 46), in which Michael allots the 
cantus firmus alternately to soprano and bass, thus creating a lively 
dialogue between highest and lowest parts. The composer's contrapuntal 
skill reveals itself in a stretto with partial diminution of the first chorale 
line inserted in the middle of the composition {Ex. 9). 


Different from the rest is Wenn wir in hochsten Noten sein (When we 
are troubled through and through; Schn. 48), a set of chorale variations in 
the style of Samuel Scheidt. In the first verse the melody is partly broken 
up into coloraturas and given to the soprano. The second verse restores 
the simple metrical construction of the tune and entrusts it to the middle 
voice, above a harmonic bass and beneath a cantabile soprano part. The 


third verse brings the composition to its climax. Running sixteenth notes 
dominate its two voices, almost completely obscuring the chorale melody. 
This last verse displays a light and emotional quality, suggesting that at 
times Michael Bach aimed at a subjectivity of expression that is almost 

In conclusion it may be stated that Michael was a composer of great, 
but uneven talent. He was fully conversant with the art of his time and 
used both German and Italian models with considerable success. The 
composer was technically well trained, his music abounding in interesting 
details and expressive power. Nevertheless, his compositions were too 
often lacking in the compelling qualities of a real work of genius. While 
some of them are stirring and exhilarating, others hardly rise above the 
level of respectable mediocrity. As a rule his harmonic language is 
impressive; but there are few attempts at introducing a more polyphonic 
texture, and perfect construction is only rarely achieved. Michael may have 
been better as an instrumental than as a vocal composer; but since so little 
of his instrumental work survives, we are not able fully to judge its merits. 
It is possible that some of his finest compositions are lost; but it is just as 
probable that his untimely death prevented him from reaching the zenith 
of his artistic development. 


Among the older members of the Bach family Johann Christoph (13) 
is undoubtedly the leader. Even the few works preserved show the wide 
range of his creative output. He wrote clavier and organ compositions, 
cantatas and motets, works for a single voice and for a ten-part double 
chorus. Serene confidence and trust, sadness rising to agonized despair, 
and on occasion a fine sense of humour, can be detected in his com- 
positions. Johann Christoph creates beautiful and poignant melodies; he 
cleverly mingles the old church modes with the modern major and minor, 
thus achieving a striking harmonic variety; he indulges in bold successions 
of chords and sudden modulations of great intensity. Above all, his works 
display a clear and logical construction, the outcome of his strong sense 
of form. Sebastian praised Johann Christoph's work as 'profound,' while 
Philipp Emanuel characterized its curiously romantic character by 
describing Johann Christoph in the Genealogy as 'the great and expressive 
composer. 5 Forkel in his book on J. S. Bach refers to the admiration 


which Emanuel had for his ancestor. 'It is still quite fresh in my memory/ 
the historian writes, 'how good-naturedly the old man smiled at me at the 
most remarkable and hazardous passages when once in Hamburg he gave 
me the pleasure of hearing some of these old pieces.' 

Among Johann Christoph's simplest vocal compositions are his arias 
Es ist nun aus (It is now past; Schn. 59) and Mit Weinen hebt sich's an 
(With weeping there begins; Schn. 66). These are plain four-part songs in 
which a purely harmonic support is given to an unadorned melody. As in 
similar arias of a hymnlike character, a solo soprano accompanied by the 
organ may take the place of the full chorus. In spite of their unpretentious 
character, these two pieces are deeply stirring. The former is a funeral 
song, or Sterb-Aria, with the refrain 'Farewell, O World' on a bold down- 
ward leap of a ninth in the soprano {Ex. 10). The little piece gives 

Ve7t gu .' . ■'. te N&cht . 

moving expression to the general longing of the time for repose, and it is 
not surprising that Sebastian took a special interest in it. Apparently he 
had it performed, since he supplemented the text in the old parts and 
made several corrections in the music. According to a note in the manu- 
script, the aria Mit Weinen hebt sich's an was written in 1691. The free 
rhythms of this composition are remarkable, and they arise from Johann 
Christoph's practice of lengthening the notes at the beginning and end of 
each line of text, thus constantly interrupting the basic trochaic metre 
and producing a feeling of restlessness, which realistically depicts the 
sorrows and pain man suffers on earth. 

More elaborate are the two five-part motets Sei getreu bis an den Tod 
(Be thou faithful unto death; Schn. 63) and Der Mensch vom Weibe 
geboren (Man born of woman; Schn. 62). These brief compositions display 
a combination of the motet and aria form. The first half of each work is 
based on the Bible (Revelation ii, 10, and Job xiv, 1, respectively) and 
exhibits a loosely knitted, somewhat polyphonic texture; the second half 
is an aria, using a hymn text and the traditional homophonic style. Neither 
the quietly confident Sei getreu nor the dark and restless Der Mensch 
(which is influenced b;y Johann Bach's Unser Leben ist ein Schatten) is a 
particularly impressive composition. Their settings are somewhat conven- 
tional and hardly reflect the wilful subjectivity so often noticeable in 


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}>aA i «J*»fc<i 

VI. Autograph of the first page of the Cantata for the i6th or 24th Sunday 

after Trinity by C. Philipp Emanuel Bach. It uses as a first chorus Johann 

Christoph Bach's Motet ' Der Gerechte ' 

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V liU lj) jo Mt +?ti cxa 


VII. Title-page of the Birthday Cantata by Georg Christoph Bach 


Johann Christoph's compositions. It is noteworthy that these two works 
were not considered sufficiently valuable to be included in the Alt- 
Bachisches Archiv. Our only sources for their musical text are reliable, 
but very late copies made in the second half of the 19th century. 

On quite a different level are two other five-part motets Fiirchte dich 
nicht (Be not afraid; Schn. 61) and Der Gerechte (The righteous; Schn. 64) 
which belong to the composer's most significant works. In Fiirchte dich 
nicht the church song, presented like a cantus firmus in long notes in the 
soprano, alternates with the Bible text in the four lower parts. For the 
main body of his motet Johann Christoph chose the words of Isaiah 
xliii, 1, 'Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name, 
thou art Mine,' and follows up with Luke xxiii, 43, 'Verily I say unto thee, 
To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.' Old and New Testament are 
here associated to give to mankind the Lord's message of salvation. To 
this the tormented soul (soprano) adds the last stanza of the song 'O woe 
and grief: 

Jesu! Thou my hope and rest, 
With tears I kneel before Thee, 
Help, that in life and death 

1 ever may adore Thee. 

The motet begins quietly in the four lower voices; gradually the motion 
increases and a lively fugato appears, leading to a monumental dialogue 
between the voices of God and man. The beseeching words 'With tears 
I kneel before Thee' are answered with the solace 'Fear not, for I have 
redeemed thee'; and the repeated anguished cry 'Help, help' with the 
prophecy 'To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.' The postlude of 
alto, tenor, and bass resumes the mood of the beginning. The work is 
beautifully proportioned, rising slowly to a climax in its middle section 
and returning gradually to the initial atmosphere. It is not surprising that 
Sebastian, who must surely have known his cousin's composition, was 
inspired to write a motet 1 based on the same text and using the identical 
conception of a dialogue between Christ and humanity. 2 

The motet Der Gerechte was a favourite composition of Philipp 
Emanuel Bach, who added strings and organ to the five voice parts of the 
original and employed this arrangement as the first chorus in one of his 
own cantatas (cf. p. 373). Emanuel informs us also that this motet of his 
great-uncle's was written in 1676, when the composer was 34 years old. 
Its text is taken from the Apocryphal 'Wisdom of Solomon,' ch. iv, 

1 Motet No. IV. 

2 Cf. also Sebastian's early cantatas, especially No. 106 Gottes Zeit (see p. 209). 



'Though the righteous die before his time, yet shall he come to heaven.' 
The pictorial element is here particularly strongly developed. At the 
beginning, the death of the righteous is expressed by descending melodic 
lines, and the pleasure which God takes in him by an ascending melody. 
At the words 'quickly he is taken,' a motive in dotted rhythm shows 
the suddenness of the event; and the 'evil, evil, evil life' is described 
by significant chords {Ex. n). Winterfeld points out that Johann 

Christoph was influenced in this composition by Giovanni Gabrieli's 
motet Sancta Maria, succurre miseris. The two compositions undoubtedly 
resemble each other in many details; but more important still is the sense 
of balance and form which the Thuringian composer acquired in his study 
of the Italian master's work. The first section of Der Gerechte is majestic 
and slow; then follow two parts inscribed as 'Presto' and 'Adagio' 
respectively, and a gay dance in triple time marks the end. Clearly there 
are four sections in this piece, the tempi of which are slow-fast-slow-fast, 
corresponding to the four movements of the Sonata da chiesa which at 
approximately the same time was assuming a definite pattern in Italy. 

There survive four eight-part motets by Johann Christoph Bach, each 
of which uses two antiphonal four-part groups of mixed voices. Ich lasse 
dich nickt, du segnest mich denn (I will not let Thee go, except Thou 
bless me; Schn. 68) is based on Genesis xxxii, 26, to which later is added 
the third stanza of the beautiful song 'Why art thou troubled' by the 16th- 
century German poet and shoemaker, Hans Sachs. In the initial section 
the Bible text alone is employed. The two choruses alternate in a simple 
and purely harmonic style. Gradually the tension grows; instead of 
following each other, they overlap and finally they sing together. The 
force of this prayer is heightened by the outcry of a single soprano voice 
'My saviour,' which is quickly lost in the general excitement. In the second 
section Bible text and chorale are combined. The melody of the church 
hymn is used as a cantus firmus in the soprano, while the three lower 
voices introduce rapidly moving counter-melodies. In spite of the fact 
that the initial eight parts are here condensed into four parts, the motet 
reaches its culmination in what is possibly the best piece of polyphonic 
writing in any of Johann Christoph's vocal compositions. There are two 
main subjects among the counterpoints of this section: a stubborn, defiant 


one to the words I'll not let Thee go/ and an imploring one illustrating 
the ardent supplication 'I pray Thou bless me.' Each of these strongly- 
contrasting ideas is skilfully developed, not only in simple imitation but 
also in stretti and inversions. The fact that this motet was for some time 
considered to be a composition of Sebastian's is mainly due to this power- 
ful and highly passionate polyphonic setting. The last part of the com- 
position again approaches the homophonic style of the beginning. It 
introduces a simple harmonization of the chorale in plain four-part chords. 
The dramatic excitement of the middle section is here replaced by a mood 
of quiet happiness and confidence. This motet, which is also harmonically 
bold and unconventional, is one of the finest works produced by the 
older Bach generation. 

The remaining three motets are in eight parts throughout. Herr, nun 
lassest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren (Lord, now lettest Thou Thy 
servant depart in peace; Schn. 65) is based on the words of Luke ii, 29-32, 
which Johann Christoph employs without the addition of a church hymn. 
Sudden changes between two keys, a whole tone or a semitone apart, and 
bold mixtures of major and minor, of medieval modes and modern 
tonality, give this composition an iridescent life which makes up for the 
simplicity of its homophonic structure. By repeating the first line of the 
text at the end of the composition, Johann Christoph rounds off his motet 
to a ternary form. The mighty invocation 'Lord, Lord,' which begins the 
work, also comes at its close. Even the third section taken by itself is in a 
kind of tripartite form, since the composer quotes in its middle a phrase 
from the second part, thus linking also these two sections of the motet. 

Lieber Herr Gott (Gracious Lord; Schn. 66), which, according to the 
manuscript, was composed in December 1672, uses as a text a hymn or 
prayer of the period. Bach may have found the words among the com- 
positions of Heinrich Schiitz, whose Geistliche Chormusik No. XIII, from 
1648, is based on the same poem. An additional similarity between the 
two works is to be found in their change from common to triple time in 
the middle and their return to common time at the end. Johann Christoph' s 
composition is clearly divided into two sections: a more homophonic first 
one, and a glorious fugue on the words 'Through our Saviour, Thy 
beloved son.' Here the composer uses the trick of always introducing 
subject and answer stretto-like in quick succession, thus increasing the 
intensity of the musical language. At first four voices only are employed, 
but gradually the remaining parts fill in the polyphonic texture. An even 
balance is maintained between the two choruses, which are linked by 
skilful imitations. Johann Christoph's study of Italian models is manifest 


in the natural flow of his parts. The mixture of tonalities, in which now 
G, then e, and again the Mixolydian mode, seems to be prevalent, contri- 
butes to the feeling of unrest and excitement pervading this dramatic 

Equally moving is the motet for two choruses Unseres Herons Freude 
(The joy of our heart; Schn. 67) based on words from the Lamentations of 
Jeremiah v, 15, 16. Quite justly, Spitta said about this remarkable com- 
position: 'For variety, energy, and appealing fervour of expression, for 
the development of sound into bold and striking imagery, for the highest 
perfection of form as affecting the whole work, it can find no equal except 
among the very best examples of its kind.' With simple dignity the words 
of the lamentation are set to music: 'The joy of our heart is ceased; our 
dance is turned into mourning.' In a second section the eight voices unite 
to the heartrending outcry: 'Woe unto us that we have sinned!' Bach's 
only means of expression here are bold chromatic progressions, such as 
the juxtaposition of the chords of A flat and G. The first section is now 
repeated in a most poetical combination with the second one. Again and 
again the words of the lamentation are interrupted by the cry of distress, 
until nothing remains but the voice of despair. It is not surprising that 
Sebastian copied part of this motet with his own hand; its musical expres- 
sion and its architecture point far into the future. 

Different from the motets are the five compositions of Johann 
Christoph which employ not only the organ but also stringed instruments 
for the accompaniment of the voices. Two of these pieces are laments for 
a single voice, using the dramatic declamation which Heinrich Schiitz had 
introduced into German Protestant music. Ach, dass ich Wassers gnug 
hdtte (Oh, had I only enough water; Schn. 5 and 57), written for contralto, 
violin, three viole da gamba, and bass, was formerly considered a com- 
position of Heinrich Bach. However, the list of the property left by 
Philipp Emanuel mentions among Johann Christoph's compositions a 
work of this name; moreover the emotional intensity of the lament and 
its bold harmonic language indicate the authorship of Heinrich's son. 
This solo cantata written in da capo form is unusually concise. There is a 
brief instrumental introduction, after which the voice enters, dominating 
henceforth the musical structure, which is supported and enriched by the 
strings. The style of this lament is a kind of dramatic recitation, closely 
following the rhythm and melody of German speech, and adorned with 
tonal pictures inspired by the text. 

On a much larger scale is the second lament written for bass solo 
accompanied by five stringed instruments, Wie bist du denn^ Gott, im 


Zorn aufmich entbrannt (How art Thou, God, enraged in fury against me; 
Schn. 58), which is based on a 17th-century version of the penitential 
psalms. This too was originally attributed to another composer, Johann 
Philipp Krieger (1649- 172 5), and has only recently been recognized as the 
work of Johann Christoph Bach. 1 It is a powerful composition in five 
extensive sections. In contrast to the preceding work the stringed instru- 
ments, particularly the violin, which is treated with the greatest brilliance, 
play an important part in its development. 2 A dignified introduction in 
the main key of e prepares for the entrance of the voice. Each of the 
following three sections starts quietly, accompanied by the continuo only. 
After a few measures the strings enter and gradually the expression be- 
comes more passionate, building up towards a climax. The most dramatic 
section is the third, in which the agitated figures of the violin depict the 
merciless treatment that the sufferer is accorded by God. In the last part 
the tormented soul tells of its anguish and fear. The rhythm changes from 
common to triple time; the prayer becomes more ardent until the words 
are reached: 'My God, no longer be inflamed in wrath against me, let 
Thine anger be transformed into goodness.' Hope gradually replaces 
despair and the final measure of the lament by its melodic inversion 
{Ex. 12) expresses most graphically that the harassed spirit is looking 


ge . 




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Or 1 






forward to a reversal of its fate. Although this cantata makes excessive 
demands on the vocal range of the singer (almost two octaves), its 
sincerity, poignancy, and fire amply repay the artist. 

The wedding cantata Meine Freundin, du hist schon (My love, thou 
art fair; Schn. 71) for four solo voices, chorus, violin, three violas, and 
basso continuo, based mainly on words from the Song of Solomon, holds 

1 Cf. EDM, I, p. viii; BJ, 1907, p. 132; and SIMG, I, 1899/1900, p. 214. 

2 Max Seiffert, the editor of the work (in DDT, zweite Folge, VI, 1, p. 125) suggests 
the use of a bassoon for the fourth part in the score. This is hardly appropriate, since 
in a list of music left by F. E. Praetorius (1655-95) the work is catalogued as written for 'B. 
solo, 1 Violine, 3 Violen con B. cont.' 


a unique position among the works of Johann Christoph. It displays a 
robust sense of humour one is hardly led to expect from a composer of 
such lofty works as Ich lasse dich nicht or Der Gerechte. To treat the 
venerated Song of Solomon, which was usually interpreted in a purely 
symbolic fashion, in so realistic a manner for a wedding celebration was 
highly unorthodox, and bound to create hilarity among the listeners. 
Moreover, Johann Christoph added a running commentary to be recited 
before or during the performance, which brings into relief the inherent 
humour of the composition, intensifying it by facetious observations. 
The 'Wedding Cantata' was a great favourite among the Bachs. 
Ambrosius copied the parts and the commentary — indeed, it is not at all 
unlikely that he co-operated with his cousin in preparing it for a special 
occasion. Sebastian, on the other hand, took the trouble to make a new 
cover for the parts his father had copied. 

As an example of the Bachs' earthy sense of humour, most of this 
commentary is reproduced here. 

'A lover saunters along, all by himself, as the bass illustrates. Un- 
expectedly he comes across his sweetheart, whom he addresses flatteringly: 
My love, thou art fair. Moreover he gives her food for thought by saying: 
Turn away thine eyes from me, for they overcome me. Possibly he is afraid 
that people might read his inmost thoughts in his eyes. 

'His sweetheart, acting like a true German [in a straightforward way] 
and also longing for a suitable and convenient place wherein to express 
her pure love without being disturbed, answers: that thou wert really my 
brother, that I might find thee in the street, kiss thee, and no one despise me. 
But presently she offers him a chance saying: Let my beloved come into his 
garden. The lover, who did not expect so bold a suggestion, but is anxious 
not to make her suspect from his long silence that he might refuse or be 
timid and irresolute, declares himself quickly: / come to my garden, my 
sister, my bride. After they have thus agreed to meet . . . they part, this 
time quickly, without any long-winded Finale. . . . 

'The girl takes a chackan 1 [heavy stick] in her hand and walks to the 
garden. On the way she is in a cheerful mood and constantly talks to her- 
self, showing herself gay and merry in different ways, which the violin 
illustrates [in a ciaccona] with many variations. She also imagines in 
natural colours the one or other thing which is going to happen in the 
garden (quite likely it is not her first visit either!). Therefore she delights 

1 The author employs here the unusual Slavonic expression chackan, as the composition 
turns at this point into a ciaccona (chaconne). 


herself with these words: My beloved is mine and I am his; hefeedeth among 
the lilies and his desire is toward me; his left hand is under my head and his 
right hand doth embrace me. . . . Mostly, however, she utters these words 
in between: My beloved is mine, and I am his, words of which undoubtedly 
her heart must have been full. 

'When she is not far from the garden, a couple of men suddenly appear 
crossing the field; and as they have probably often seen this girl wandering 
to the garden, or perhaps have heard gossip about the affair, they do not 
inquire in the usual fashion, asking "Where from? Whither? Why alone?", 
but act as though they knew already whom she was looking for, and 
therefore inquire: Whither is thy beloved gone?, flattering her at the same 
time by saying: Oh, thou fairest among women. 

'She, who does not keep it secret any more and probably does not 
mind being teased about it, admits: My beloved is gone down into his 
garden to the beds of spices, to feed in the garden and to gather lilies. 

'Thereupon both out of politeness offer to accompany her: That we 
may seek him with thee. 

'After that the two men walk up and down in the garden. The basso 
continuo runs round continuously and searches; the other instruments 
also move occasionally, then again they stop and look around, until 
finally, when they perceive the lover in the garden, they all unite and pay 
their respects in a piano and adagio passage. 

'He, the lover, while certainly expecting his sweetheart alone and not 
with such a retinue, appreciates that these men have joined her only to 
serve her; moreover they are not strangers but a couple of good friends, 
so he greets them telling them what he did in the garden: / have gathered 
my myrrh with my spice. . . . 

'And after he has led them all into the little pavilion and set refresh- 
ments and food on the table, he as well as his sweetheart, who has some- 
what assumed the role of hostess, exclaim . . . Eat, friends; drink, 
beloved, and become drunk)- 

'When the feast is over, one hears the guests call to the musicians: The 
gratias, thus letting them know that they should intone a song of thanks; 
whereupon the musicians play the chorale, while all those present join in 
singing, and the instruments keep active as well. 

'Finally, as everyone shows the effects of the entertainment, it is 
decided to break up the party. Thus one hears everywhere: Good night! 
Sleep well! Many thanks ! Good luck ! For you too !' 

1 The Luther translation used by the composer has here the words und werdet trunken 
(and become drunk), while the King James version reads 'drink abundandy.' 


The music of the cantata reaches its climax in a ciaccona with 66 varia- 
tions for voice and strings, based on the theme in Ex. 13. It serves the 

Vj J , J I 






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bride to express her deep love for the groom, and the composer seems to 
have chosen this particular form to demonstrate that every utterance of 
an infatuated person appears like a new variation on the same theme. 
Johann Christoph's fine sense of balance and proportion leads him to 
establish in this number, with the help of harmonic changes, a kind of 
rondo form within the larger framework of the ciaccona. 1 When the 
scene turns into a feast, a big ensemble develops in which, for the first 
time, the chorus joins with brief exclamations. The composer takes special 
delight in the invitation of the text to get drunk, which the voices present 
with a sort of hiccough {Ex. 14). The end of the composition, how- 

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ever, reverts to the serious character sanctioned by tradition. In a dignified 
hymn solo voices and chorus join to express thanks to God for His gifts. 
The very last note (G) of all the singers is held for ten measures and 
gradually dies away, while the violin alone keeps up the motion, thus 
describing the reluctant departure of the guests. 

Another cantata of a pseudo-dramatic character is Die Furcht des 
Herren (The fear of the Lord; not enumerated in Schn.) for five solo 
voices, mixed chorus, strings and organ. In the score, written by Johann 
Christoph himself, most of the singers, and even the instrumental basso 
continuo, are identified with one or other of the functionaries of a city, 
thus suggesting a performance in honour of a newly elected city council. 
The bass, for instance, is called 'the senior mayor,' the chorus 'the whole 
city council,' and the basso continuo (organ) 'the dry clerk.' In the main 
section of this composition, each line of a prayer is started by the senior 

1 Var. 1-17 are in the tonic, 18-22 in the dominant, 33-51 again in the tonic, 52-59 in 
the subdominant, and 60-66 back in the tonic. 


city chamberlain (tenor), and after a measure or two the rest of the singers 
and placers join him. Particularly moving is the middle part, a secular 
version of the traditional combination between church hymn and Bible 
text. 'Wisdom' (soprano), boasting of its great merits, is implored by the 
city functionaries to impart to them something of its blessing. The single 
soprano voice is confronted by solo quartet and full chorus, and the loose 
polyphonic texture realistically describes with its successive entrances and 
imitations the uncertainty and confusion of men pining for enlightenment. 
When 'Wisdom' proudly announces 'Kings are ruling through me,' both 
the melody of the voice and the accompaniment of strings imitate trumpet 
fanfares. Johann Sebastian wrote various works on a much larger scale 
for similar occasions. Yet the less pretentious composition of his kinsman 
by no means suffers by comparison with them. 

The St. Michael's Day cantata Es erhub sick ein Streit (And there was 
war in heaven; Schn. 69) is the biggest and, as far as orchestration goes, 
the most ambitious work that Johann Christoph created. Philipp Emanuel 
wrote about it in a letter to Forkel: 1 'This composition in 22 parts is a 
masterpiece. My blessed father performed it once in a church at Leipzig 
and everybody was surprised by the effect it made. I have not enough 
singers here [in Hamburg], or else I would produce it sometime.' The 
cantata is based on Revelation xii, 7-12, and modelled on the lines of a 
composition using the same text by Andreas Hammerschmidt, 2 whose 
works were well known to the older Bachs. Its subject, the war of Michael 
and his angels against 'that old serpent called the Devil and Satan,' is a 
monumental one and very well suited to the belligerent personality of its 
composer. The treatment of the Scripture words is epic and oratorio-like; 
majestic power and restrained dramatic fire give to this outsized com- 
position a character of its own. The 22 parts to which Emanuel refers in 
his letter are formed by two five-part choirs, two violins, four violas, 
continuo [bassoon and organ] and — a most uncommon feature in the 
works of the earlier Bachs — four trumpets and timpani. The cantata 
begins with a two-part Sonata, in character somewhat reminiscent of a 
French Overture. An imitative recitative by two basses leads to the first 
climax: the description of the struggle between the powers of light and of 
darkness. This gigantic tone picture, in which the trumpets hold a promi- 
nent place, is for more than 50 measures exclusively based on the single 
triad of C. A brilliant instrumental section, describing the triumph of the 
angels, concludes this part. Johann Sebastian, who set the same scene to 

1 Dated Hamburg, September 20, 1775. See Bitter, 'C.P.E. . . . Bach,' I, 343. 

2 'Andern Theil geisdicher Gesprache iiber die Evangelia,' Dresden, 1656, No. 26. 


music, was obviously influenced by the work of his cousin. However, he 
not only used a great variety of forms (recitative, aria, chorale, and poly- 
phonic chorus), but he also divided the words of the Scripture between 
two independent cantatas (Nos. 19 and 50). Johann Christoph unites both 
sections into a single mighty work. 1 He comes to a second culmination 
when the words 'Now is come salvation, and strength' are pronounced, 
and a third one to describe at the end the general rejoicing. However, in 
some respects the composer strives at more economy than seems 
advantageous to his work. There are no solo voices, polyphonic devices 
are sparingly employed, and the harmonies are of the utmost simplicity 
and limited diversity. This is a work full of interesting orchestral effects; 
it made the greatest contribution towards the fame of its author, but it 
may be doubted whether it is actually his strongest and most inspired 

Philip Spitta called the organ works of Johann Christoph Bach 'im- 
perfect' and 'disappointing to anybody who knows the master's vocal 
output.' This severe verdict was obviously caused by an insufficient in- 
sight into the meaning and purpose of this part of the composer's music. 
The 44 Chorale welche bey warenden Gottes Dienst %um prdambulieren 
gebraucht werden konnen (chorales to be used as preludes during the 
service; Schn. 82) are mere improvisations on the organ which Johann 
Christoph committed to paper, possibly for the benefit of his pupils. The 
collection consists of short and easy pieces intended to prepare the 
congregation for the following hymn, and presenting no particular 
technical difficulty even to an organist of mediocre executive ability. This 
is music for practical purposes, designed to save the player the trouble of 
improvising a chorale prelude on the spur of the moment, and at the same 
time of such simple texture as not to lead the audience to suspect its 
previous composition. In accordance with Mattheson's recommendations 
for organ improvisations, 2 none of the preludes exceeds two minutes. 
No early print of the collection has yet been unearthed, but the title of 
the existing manuscripts with the remark 'composed and edited by 
Johann Christoph Bach' implies that the author intended his work for 

Like the preludes of Pachelbel, each of the 44 chorales begins with a 
brief fugato. In contrast to this polyphonic section, the second half of the 

1 Johann Christoph Friedrich (the 'Biickeburg') Bach, who dealt with the same 
subject in his cantata Michaels Sieg (cf. p. 401), was influenced by his father's work; 
yet, like the former Johann Christoph, he used both sections of the text in his composition. 

2 'Grosse Generalbasslehre,' 1725-27. 



prelude introduces as a rule a more homophonic texture, employing a 
pedal point which serves as a kind of extended cadence, and gives stability 
to this part of the composition. In about half his preludes Johann 
Christoph follows the style of older masters, such as Scheidt and Ahle. 
He uses the entire chorale melody, entrusting the fugato with the first line 
of the hymn and the pedal point section with the remainder. In more 
than 20 of his preludes, however, Johann Christoph works with selected 
lines of the hymn tune only, even occasionally confining himself to the 
single line of the beginning. The composer's contrapuntal treatment is of 
the simplest kind. Parallel thirds and sixths are frequently employed, and 
while rarely more than three parts are played simultaneously, a sort of 
mock polyphony is used which makes the listener imagine the presence of 
four or even five real voices. 1 No. 13, Nun lasst uns Gott den Herren loben 
(Now let us praise God the Lord), for instance, is a three-part composi- 
tion, introducing five entrances of the fugue theme, each on a different 
level and with not less than three octaves between the highest and lowest 
statement. Stretti, although not very frequent, are occasionally to be 
found in this collection (cf. Nos. 3, 11, 13). 

There are many attractive pieces in this set of preludes. No. 9, Wir 
glauben all an einen Gott (We believe all in one God) with its interesting 
combination of different motives belongs to the most highly developed 
pieces of the collection. No. 41, Aus meines Helens Grunde (From out 
my heart I praise the Lord) in the unusual 3/8 time has a gay and light 
character which matches the joyous content of the text extremely well 
{Ex. 15). Perhaps the finest number of the set is the last one, Warum 


betriibst du dkh mein Her\? (Why art thou troubled, oh my heart?). This 
is one of the very few preludes of the 17th century which does not merely 
attempt to follow the mood of the chorale text in a general way. It inter- 
prets the changing emotions of the text in much the same way as Sebastian 
was to do in the chorale preludes of his Orgelbuchlein. The text begins with 
the words: 'Why art thou troubled, oh my heart? So sore, distressed and 
sad thou art, why mourn earth's transient joys?' Accordingly the com- 

1 The remark in the Obituary for J. S. Bach published in Mizler's 'Musikalische 
Bibliothek/ that Johann Christoph never used less than five real parts in his organ playing, 
might be explained in this way. 


position introduces chromatically descending passages which, since the 
times of Monteverdi and Scheidt, have been the generally accepted 
medium of expressing sorrow and grief. In the last two lines, however, 
the mood changes completely. Here the text reads: Tut thou thy trust 
in God the Lord, Creator, He by all adored.' As soon as the composer 
reaches these lines the wailing halftone progressions disappear; the music, 
supported by the powerful pedal point, expresses serene confidence and 
trust in God. This prelude is so far ahead of its time, that the composer 
himself seems to have felt he overshot the mark, and desisted from any 
further attempt in this field. 

What Johann Christoph was able to achieve in strict instrumental 
style is demonstrated by his Praeludium undFuge ex Dis (E flat; Schn. 81). 
This is a Toccata with runs and passages displaying the brilliant Italian 
writing introduced into Germany by the Austrian court organist, Johann 
Jacob Froberger. In the middle of this fine fantasy stands a four-part fugue 
on a chromatic descending bass theme. It comprises 45 measures and its 
construction is as intricate as that of the chorale preludes is loose. Johann 
Christoph uses four real parts, without any attempt at giving the illusion 
of a greater number of voices. There is a strong rhythmic motion, the 
interesting chromatic theme is effectively harmonized, and the modula- 
tions are logically planned. It is not surprising that the powerful com- 
position was long considered as a work of the young Johann Sebastian 
and was published as such by the editors of the BG (Jhrg. xxxvi, 12). 

Johann Christoph was also active in the field of clavier music, as is 
shown by his Sarabande. Duodecies variat. (Schn. 76), a set of twelve varia- 
tions on a saraband-like theme. This composition, which to judge by the 
echo effects it employs was probably meant for a harpsichord with two 
manuals, is based on a theme of the simplest kind, the formal construction 
of which is preserved in each of the variations. Nevertheless the effect of 
the composition is far from monotonous. Johann Christoph gives it 
greater life by employing a slightly unorthodox pattern of repetition. The 
first eight measures of the theme and of each variation are played twice in 
the ordinary way; the second eight measures are subdivided, and the per- 
former repeats each phrase of four measures separately. Thus an illusion of 
slight asymmetry is created. The sixth, and still more the twelfth variation 
skilfully employs chromatic effects of great expressive power. The archi- 
tecture of the whole work is clear and logical. The motion increases, 
reaching a climax in variations 5 and 7, and then decreases again. In- 
dependently of the rest, variations Nos. 3, 6, 9, and 12 provide pauses in 
the natural flow of the whole set, by reverting to the more meditative 


character of the slow saraband theme. It can hardly be doubted that Sebas- 
tian remembered Johann Christoph's composition while working on his 
own 'Aria with 30 Variations' (cf. p. 277). The fact that the later com- 
position is likewise in G, that its theme is in 3/4 time and of saraband 
character, and, most of all, that here too a clear connection between every 
third variation can be detected, are proof enough. Obviously this is 
another of the many instances when Sebastian was stimulated and inspired 
by the artistic heritage of his ancestors. 

Closely related to the variations on a saraband is Johann Christoph's 
Aria Eberliniana pro dormiente Camillo, variata (Schn. 77), a set of fifteen 
variations on an air by Eberlin written, according to the original, in March 
1690. The theme is the work of the Eisenach court composer, Daniel 
Eberlin (cf. p. 30), who, in spite of his rather varied interests, was an 
outstanding musician according to the testimony of his son-in-law, Georg 
Philipp Telemann. Nothing is known about the origin of his aria 'for the 
sleeping Camillo,' but it must have been a rather well-known piece, since 
as late as 171 3 Johann Heinrich Buttstadt used part of it as a theme for a 
set of variations. 1 Johann Christoph preserves the very simple and rather 
charming melody in almost half his variations, furnishing it in each 
successive piece with new counterpoints. Variations 9 and 11, which do 
not fit into the overall pattern of a gradually intensified and subsequently 
slowed-up rhythmic motion, are perhaps the most attractive pieces of the 
set. No. 9 is a chromatic variation with progressions of rare boldness 
and expressive power (Ex. 16), while the nth places the melody of the 

fa "r r r 

\ n^ i 

*JijJb] 1 





f 'iT^ f 




air into the tenor, surrounding it, as in a medieval motet, with highly 
significant counter-melodies. If the set in G was primarily intended for the 
harpsichord, the almost romantic feeling of the 'Aria Eberliniana' would 
call for the use of a clavichord, the only keyboard instrument of the 
period on which a modulation of tone was possible. While the 'Varia- 
tions on a Saraband' influenced Sebastian, this work with its stronger 
emotional life points the way towards the clavichord composer Philipp 

1 In 'Musicalische Klavier-Kunst und Vorraths-Kammer.' Cf. Conrad Freyse in 
publications of Neue Bach Gesellschaft, XXXIX/2. 


Emanuel. However, Sebastian also knew the composition, as the ioth 
variation of the 'Aria Eberliniana' seems to have been the model for the 
younger master's organ chorale Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst waken from 
the Orgelbiichlein. Not only the gay and energetic rhythm, but the whole 
treatment of the cantus Jirmus and even the lengths of the pieces are similar. 
No other works of Johann Christoph are accessible in our time. 1 
Those that have survived prove that the Eisenach organist's composi- 
tions were not only important as an inspiration and model for the 
works of later members of the Bach family, particularly Sebastian; 
they are masterpieces in their own right, written by a man who un- 
doubtedly belongs to the most remarkable composers of his period. 

1 A set of clavier variations in a, the manuscript of which Philipp Spitta owned, 
seems to be lost to-day. Cf. Schn. 78. 




Christoph Bach (5) 

Georg Christoph (10) 

J. Valentin (21) 

J. Elias (39) 

J. Christoph (12) J. Ambrosius (n)=Elisab. Lammerhirt 

1645-93 1645-95 1644-94 

J. Ernst (25) J. Christoph (22) 
1683-1739 1671-1721 

J. Sebastian (24) 

Ohrdruf line 

J. Jakob (23) 

when Christoph Bach (5), the brother of Johann and Heinrich, died in 
Arnstadt at the age of 48, he left behind three sons and a half-witted 
daughter (cf. p. 65). 1 The eldest, Georg Christoph (10), born on 
September 6, 1642, was best able to fend for himself. Probably with the 
help of his relatives in Suhl, the Hoffmann family (cf. p. 13), he obtained 
a post as assistant to the teacher in a nearby school, and while thus 
supporting himself, he continued his studies with such success that in 
1668 he was appointed Cantor of the town of Themar. This meant an 
important step upwards on the social ladder. Not only was the Cantor 
director of the church music, and thus the superior of the organist and 
the town musicians who played in church, but he also had to instruct the 
young people in the Latin school. In filling such positions preference was 
given to men who had studied at a University, and it is a well-known fact 
that the Leipzig authorities hesitated to appoint Sebastian Bach because 
of his lack of a University degree. The Council of the little town of Themar 
was, of course, less exacting, but nevertheless Georg Christoph must 
have been an educated man to get the appointment. Apparently he did 
well in this position; for he stayed twenty years at Themar, after which he 

1 The Erfurt register mentions two more children of Christoph: Johann Jakob, born 
1647, and Maria Barbara, born 165 1, but nothing could be found out about their fate. 



was called in the same capacity to the more important city of Schweinfurt 
in Franconia. 1 This town had tried two years earlier to secure the services 
of the Eisenach organist, Johann Christoph Bach, but his employers 
refused their permission to accept the call. Thus Georg Christoph was the 
first Bach to settle down in Schweinfurt, and he became the founder of a 
long line of Franconian Bach musicians. His two brothers, Johann 
Christoph and Ambrosius, were naturally anxious to see what life in 
Schweinfurt was like. So one year after Georg Christoph's appointment, 
they paid him a visit to celebrate his birthday, and so pleased was the 
eldest brother by this family reunion that he wrote a cantata on the words 
of Psalm 133, Siehe, wie fein und lieblich (Behold, how good and how 
pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity). The pretty title- 
page painted in watercolours (111. VII), which like the composition itself 
was preserved in the Alt-Bachisches Archiv, carries the following inscrip- 
tion in Latin: 

The triple team of the German Bach brothers and its flourishing, sweet and firm 
concord, demonstrated with the help of Psalm 133 and adorned by music for two tenors, 
bass, violin, 3 viole da gamba and continuo by the eldest brother, Georg Christoph Bach, 
Cantor in Schweinfurt, on the 6th September 1689, on which day he reached with the help 
of God his 47th year. 

Everything in this work is intended to express the complete concord of the 
three brothers. The illustrations on the title-page show under the word 
'flourishing' a hand holding a rAree-leaf clover, under 'sweet' a triangle 
with three rings, and under 'firm' a lock with three chains. In the same way 
the composition is written for three solo voices (two tenors and one bass); 
it uses three viole da gamba among the accompanying instruments; there 
are usually three entrances of every subject; and the instrumental intro- 
duction develops three successive themes. In spite of the rather humorous 
persistency with which the triad is emphasized all through this 
composition, the work is artistically significant proving that Georg 
Christoph was both talented and well trained. The instrumental Praelu- 
dium consists of one section in common and one in triple time. This 
arrangement is adhered to in the vocal section, where, moreover, the 
composer, near the end, repeats the text and music of the beginning, thus 
creating a kind of ternary construction. The instrumental interludes 
develop themes which are subsequently taken up by the voices, and 
altogether an uncommonly compact and strongly unified form is thus 

1 This was stated by Spitta, I.e. Recently Oskar Stapf pointed out (in 'Johann 
Sebastian Bach in Thiiringen') that Georg Christoph's name does not appear in the 
Themar church or school registers after 1683, which makes it seem possible that the 
move to Schweinfurt took place as early as 1684. 

Ham bt 



• Berlin 

Minden . . gijckeburg 

• Kothen 

Halle • . 


• Muhlhausen Dresden 

Eisenach I , Erfurt -Weimar 
/ Cotha .Jena 

Ohrdruf' 'Arnstadt 

o . £0 1 

i. The Bach cities on the map of Germany 


created. The composition is energetic, fiery, and brilliant; it contains 
interesting parts both for voices and instruments, which more than com- 
pensate for the obvious weaknesses in the contrapuntal treatment caused 
partly by the programme-like character of the cantata. 

Georg Christoph seems to have been something of a poet too. In a 
collection of 20,000 funeral sermons assembled by the Dukes of Stolberg, 1 
there are four poems which the learned Cantor wrote, two of them even 
in Latin. 

Georg Christoph was not fated to enjoy his new position for long. He 
died nine years after his appointment, at the age of 55. Three years before 
his death, he had the satisfaction of seeing his eldest son, Johann Valentin 
(b. 1669), engaged as town musician of Schweinfurt. Valentin's sons 
followed in the family tradition. The second one, Johann Elias (b. 1705), 
Cantor in Schweinfurt like his grandfather, interests us the most as we 
owe to him the preservation of valuable biographical material about 
Sebastian Bach and the Thomas Cantor's family. 

Georg Christoph's two younger brothers, Johann Christoph (12) and 
Johann Ambrosius, with whom he felt so closely united, were twins, born 
February 22, 1645. Sebastian merely mentions this fact in the Genealogy, 
but his son, Philipp Emanuel, added the following details, which he must 
have heard again and again in the family circle: 'These twins are perhaps 
the only ones of their kind known [in our family]. They loved each other 
tenderly, and looked so much alike that even their own wives could not 
distinguish them. They were a subject of astonishment to noblemen and 
everyone who saw them. Their speech, their way of thinking — every- 
thing was alike. As musicians, too, they were not to be told apart: they 
played similarly and planned their performances in the same way.' The 
twins were only 16 when they lost their father and mother, and in a letter 
describing their desperate financial situation they asked their father's 
employer to allow them Christoph Bach's salary for the current quarter. 
This the Count granted, but it did not help much, and the family had to 
come to the rescue, especially as there was also a girl to provide for, who, 
according to the petition of her brothers, was 'of an imbecile mind and 
misshapen figure.' The twins both went to Erfurt to join their uncle 
Johann, and before long they were both appointed members of the town 
band to which their father had belonged. 2 Johann Christoph (12), however, 

1 Cf. 'Mitteilungsblatt des Bach'schen Familienverbandes,' 1939, No. 2. 

2 Cf. Otto Rollert, I.e. — Wiegand, /.c, did not agree with this assumption, but has, 
according to personal information to this author, changed his attitude after a thorough 
study of the Erfurt archives, and now accepts Rollert's theory. 


felt drawn towards Arnstadt and he tried whenever possible to play there 
on special occasions. Apparently he made a good impression, for in 1671 
he was appointed court musician by Count Ludwig Gtinther of Schwarz- 
burg-Arnstadt. The violin seems to have been his main instrument, as 
the contract specifically mentions that he was expected 'further to work 
on the elegance and grace of his fiddling.' 1 Apart from his performances 
at court he had to play regularly at the church services, in the musical 
improvement of which the Count was particularly interested. As his 
yearly salary was even smaller than that of his father (cf. p. 20), 
amounting only to 30 fl. plus a certain quantity of wood, and 5 J Mass of 
grain, he needed an additional source of income. The town musician, 
Heinrich Graser, was therefore instructed by the Count, whenever music 
was to be played at special functions, to invite first of all Johann Christoph 
Bach and give him preference over the town musician's assistants. It can 
well be imagined that such vague instructions were bound to lead to 
disputes among the musicians, who all needed these Accidentien so 
desperately. In fact, the Arnstadt archives hold quite a number of petitions 
on the matter from Graser as well as Bach. In particular, Graser, an 
elderly and rather embittered man, complained in the most aggressive 
way about his young colleague. He could not help being jealous of the 
latter's popularity at court and once exclaimed: If my name were Bach, 
I would find help everywhere!' It was also a blow to his pride when the 
burgomaster's son, anxious to have a really first-class entertainment at his 
wedding, asked young Johann Christoph to provide the music together 
with his twin brother and a cousin, all of whom had to travel from 
Erfurt to Arnstadt for this purpose. 2 Graser therefore fought against 
Johann Christoph with all the weapons at his disposal; he ridiculed the 
court musician's violin playing as 'the brushing of flies' wings' {Fliegen- 
gewedel); he complained about the young man's 'guzzling of tobacco,' 
arrogance, and so forth. When he eventually began to utter grave 
calumnies against the whole Bach clan, he had to be stopped. In 1677 a 
joint petition was made by the Arnstadt Bachs, headed by old Heinrich, 
together with their Erfurt cousins, that Graser should be made to apolo- 
gize in public. A compromise was finally reached, but as controversies 
continued to occur, the Count dismissed both Graser and Johann 
Christoph Bach in 168 1. Hard times followed; however, a year later, when 

1 Cf. H. Albrecht and A. Bach (see Bibliography), and Wiegand, I.e. 

2 Formally Graser' s claim was justified, as Johann Christoph was at that time not 
yet officially appointed in Arnstadt, but it may be assumed that the burgomaster paid 
Graser the compensation customary in such a case. 


the old sovereign had died, Johann Christoph was appointed by young 
Count Anton Gunther both as court and town musician, with the exclusive 
privileges his father had enjoyed, 1 while Graser was left without an official 
post. The new ruler, influenced by his music-loving wife, the Countess 
Auguste Dorothea, 2 made great efforts to improve Arnstadt's musical life. 
In 1683 he engaged as conductor Adam Drese, an excellent viola da 
gamba player, who raised the court orchestra to 21 members, among 
whom the Bachs were represented by Johann Christoph, his uncle Hein- 
rich (so long as he was physically able), his cousin, Johann Michael (14), 
and Heinrich's son-in-law, Christoph Herthum. 

Economic difficulties were not the only ones Johann Christoph had 
to surmount. In his private life there were problems as well. While most 
of the Bachs married with clockwork regularity as soon as they had 
reached a settled position, 3 Johann Christoph was 34 when he entered 
holy matrimony with Martha Elisabeth Eisentraut, daughter of a school 
assistant at Ohrdruf. Six years before, he had passed through a disturbing 
experience which made him reluctant to get involved with the fair sex. 
He had been courting a girl at Arnstadt, and had even given her a ring, at 
her request, but he eventually came to the conclusion that she would not 
be the right wife for him, whereupon the ring was returned. The church 
Consistory of Arnstadt had found out about the matter, and subjected 
both the girl and the young man to repeated and most unpleasant inter- 
rogatories which dragged on for almost two years. As no real offence 
could be proved, the Consistory tried by persuasion to make the two 
young people decide on marriage. The girl indeed was willing. The 
young man, however, showed himself most obstinate. The more pressure 
the Consistory exercised, the more determined he became to preserve his 
freedom. Although his livelihood depended to a great extent on the very 
people he had to fight in this matter, Johann Christoph recklessly decided 
to appeal to the higher court, the Consistory of Weimar, in order to 
obtain his rights. There he pleaded his case with such vigour that he was 
absolved of any responsibility towards the girl. The incident is indeed 

1 They were even extended to the nearby districts of Keula and Schermberg, where 
no one but Johann Christoph Bach and his assistants was allowed to play. The resulting 
increase in Accidentien caused the Count to reduce Bach's salary at court to 20 fl. 

2 She was the daughter of Duke Anton Ulrich of Wolfenbiittel, who was a great 
patron of music and dramatic art. A sister and an aunt of hers achieved similar improve- 
ments to the theatres at the courts of Coburg and Meiningen. Cf. Gresky, 'Die Arnstadter 
Musikverhaltnisse zur Zeit der Bache,' in 'Arnstadter Anzeiger,' 1935. 

3 His cousins, Johann Christoph (13) and Johann Michael (14), were 25 and 27 
respectively, his twin brother, Ambrosius, only 23, when they married. 


significant. To appreciate Johann Christoph' s action, we should bear in 
mind that in those times, and in that social sphere, the choice of a wife 
was far from being a matter of love. It was dictated mainly, if not 
exclusively, by economic considerations. Men married to succeed in the 
father-in-law's profession, to set up homes of their own, to beget children 
who would help with their work. Love played a most insignificant part in 
these decisions. It would have been quite in keeping with the attitude 
then prevalent if the young man, after being gently prodded by his 
spiritual advisers, had married the girl. But Johann Christoph just did not 
like to be prodded in any way. Instead of being curbed by the pressure 
brought to bear upon him, he mustered up courage to defy his superiors 
and public opinion as well. Maybe young Sebastian remembered his 
stubborn uncle's attitude, when he refused to be talked into marrying the 
daughter of Buxtehude, in order to succeed to the great master's position 
in Liibeck. 

This outburst of resistance was eventually forgiven, and Johann 
Christoph enjoyed great esteem and popularity in Arnstadt. For although 
he had the innate stubbornness of all the Bachs, he was quite skilful in 
handling people, certainly more skilful than his great cousin and name- 
sake, Johann Christoph, the organist of Eisenach. It is interesting to note 
how he became the proprietor of a house in which Bach musicians were 
to live for many years to come. A contract between Johann Christoph 
Bach and an aged wealthy baker's widow dated September 12, 1687, has 
been preserved. She undertook to leave him her house with its entire 
furnishings, a garden, and six acres of land, 1 provided he would lodge 
her, take care of her, and supply her with warm food and two quarts of 
beer daily. Johann Christoph undoubtedly came out very well under this 
agreement; for the widow died only a few months later, and he acquired 
a good house and other property. His income, too, thanks to various 
Accidentien, grew, and he managed to save quite a sizable amount of 
money. But again, like his father and his brothers, he was not fated to 
enjoy this more prosperous state of affairs for long; he reached exactly 
the same age as Christoph Bach, dying when 48 years old. He left three 
children, among them Johann Ernst (25), who was to be Sebastian's 
successor at the 'New Church' of Arnstadt. 

Among the music of the Alt-Bachisches Archiv is an unidentified com- 
position which may with some probability be ascribed to Johann 

1 The house was at Kohlgasse No. 357, now No. 7, which still stands to-day; the 
garden at Borngasse; 4 acres on Rabenhold, 2 acres on Eulenberg. Cf. Albrecht-Bach, l.c, 
and Wiegand, l.c. 


Christoph. The manuscript does not bear any name or initials, and the 
hand of the writer is also unknown. However, at the end of the score the 
date 'Arnstadt, 6 July, 1686' is to be found. At that time Heinrich and 
Johann Christoph Bach lived in Arnstadt, but as Heinrich was a man of 
71 and hardly able to write this vigorous piece, it seems likely that we 
have here the only preserved composition by Johann Christoph Bach 
(12). Nun ist dies iiberwunden (Now everything is overcome) is a four- 
part funeral aria similar in character to Johann Bach's JVeint nicht um 
meinen Tod (cf. p. 26). The piece is in common time without any 
rhythmic complications. It has a simple, heart-rending melody and an 
expressive harmonization effectively alternating between the keys of e and 
G. Each of the six verses ends with the same words, 'Now farewell and 
good night.' Sebastian, who wrote the text of five of these stanzas on a 
separate piece of paper, crossed out the word 'now' and replaced it by 
'world.' Thus the ending of the verses was changed to 'World, farewell 
and good night,' and assumed a new significance and beauty. 

Philipp Emanuel Bach owned an oil-portrait 1 of his grandfather, 
Johann Ambrosius, the twin, who bore so striking a likeness to Johann 
Christoph. This portrait (111. VIII), which later became the property of 
the Berlin library, shows Ambrosius without the customary wig or the 
elaborate costume which appears in most portraits of the time. His 
camisole is open at the neck, and a coat is carelessly wrapped around his 
figure. His attitude is not stiff and ceremonious, but easy and natural, so 
as to give the impression that he has just made music in his workroom, 
through the window of which the Eisenach Wartburg is to be seen. The 
strong throat, the massive chin, and the bold fleshy nose, features his son 
Sebastian was to inherit, seem to proclaim the stubborn tenacity of the 
Bach clan. His shrewd eyes and dark hair complete the picture of a full- 
blooded, vigorous and somewhat earthy personality. It may well be 
imagined that the appearance of two such striking men who were 
absolutely alike was a 'subject of astonishment to everyone.' 

Ambrosius started his musical career in the Erfurt musical band, taking 
over the work formerly done by his cousin, Johann Christian (7), who 
had gone to Eisenach to assist the town musician, Christoffel Schmidt. 
In 1667 Ambrosius was officially appointed, and now his thoughts turned 

1 It is likely that it was painted by an employee of the Eisenach court, perhaps by 
Johann David Herlicius, who made twelve engravings to a 'Neues vollstandiges Gesang- 
buch' printed in 1673. Cf. Conrad Freyse, 'Eisenacher Dokumente um Sebastian Bach,' 
publications of Neue Bach Gesellschaft, 1933, and Fritz Rollberg, 'Johann Ambrosius 
Bach,' BJ, 1927. 


to marriage. In the house of his uncle, Johann (4), he met Elisabeth 
Lammerhirt, who was a much younger half-sister of Johann's wife, 
Hedwig. 1 She lived at 'The Three Roses' on Junkersand, a street in Erfurt 
where all the Bachs were domiciled, and so Ambrosius and Elisabeth had 
plenty of opportunity of seeing each other. Hardly a year after 
Ambrosius' definite appointment, the wedding took place, and the 
couple moved into a neighbouring house on Junkersand. The bridegroom 
was 23, the bride one year older. Elisabeth probably could not bring 
more than a modest dowry to Ambrosius, for her father was dead and in 
the seven years of his illness most of the little fortune he had accumulated 
had been spent. 2 But the Lammerhirts still enjoyed a good social 
standing — the Genealogy proudly describes Elisabeth as daughter of 
Valentin, 'member of A Noble Council in Erfurt' — and other members 
of the family were still well off. This is apparent from the legacies which 
Elisabeth's brother, Tobias, subsequently bequeathed to his sister's 
children. 3 

Young Ambrosius was not over-anxious to stay on in Erfurt, as his 
cousin, Johann Christian (7), had returned from Eisenach bent on resum- 
ing his place in the Erfurt band. A chance to move away presented itself 
when the Eisenach town musician, Christoffel Schmidt, died. Had 
Christian not left Eisenach, he would probably have succeeded Schmidt, 
who was his father-in-law. But as he had returned to Erfurt, the eyes of 
the Eisenach authorities turned to another Bach. They invited Ambrosius 
to give a trial performance at the Georgenkirche, where his cousin, the 
great Johann Christoph (13), had been organist for the past six years. 
Ambrosius appeared there on October 12, 1671, 4 and gave so excellent 

1 Hugo Lammerhirt, BJ, 1925, sees in Elisabeth a niece of Hedwig. Ziller in 'J- H. 
Buttstadt' contends that Elisabeth was a half-sister of Hedwig, an assumption upheld also 
by Rollert, I.e. 

2 Cf. Walter Dieck, 'Die Beziehungen der Familie Bach zu Erfurt,' in 'Thur. Allg. 
Ztg.,' 1935. 

3 The testament granting these legacies gives us some idea of the spiritual atmosphere 
in which Elisabeth had grown up. This document, as the notary points out, was dictated 
by Tobias, the uncle of Sebastian, in 'clearly audible words,' which makes it obvious that 
the following powerful introduction is the old man's own: 'Both husband and wife com- 
mend their souls, when according to God's gracious will they shall be separated from their 
mortal bodies, into the hands of God, their dearest heavenly Father, as the all-powerful 
Creator of heaven and earth, and into those of His son, Jesus Christ, as their only 
Redeemer and Giver of bliss, and into those of the Holy Ghost which in holy baptism hath 
sanctified them unto eternal life; but their bodies they commend to the cool earth, which 
is the mother of us all, to be buried in it according to Christian custom.' 

4 Emanuel Bach's contention in the Genealogy that the twins led similar lives is 
confirmed by the fact that Johann Christoph (12) was also officially appointed in 1671. 


an account of himself that even from the outset he was granted better 
terms than his predecessor. While Schmidt's yearly salary from the town 
had been only 28 fl., to which, of course, the Accidentien were added as 
the main source of income, Ambrosius got a yearly payment of 40 fl. 4 gr. 
8 pf., plus free lodging for the first three years of his stay. 1 His duties 
were to play 'twice a day, at 10 in the morning, and 5 in the evening, with 
his four men on the tower of the town hall, and to perform at church on 
all holidays and Sundays before and after the morning and afternoon 
sermons, according to the Cantor's instructions.' 

The new town musician certainly knew how to satisfy his superiors. 
A relationship developed that was utterly different from that under which 
his cousin, Johann Christoph, was suffering. A few months after his 
appointment Ambrosius petitioned Prince Johann Georg I of Eisenach, 
who had taken over the government soon after the new town musician 
started his work, to be allowed to brew a certain amount of ale tax free. 
When the Prince asked for the Council's opinion, the city fathers urged 
him to grant Ambrosius a privilege which his predecessor had also 
enjoyed, adding: 'The new Hausmann (town musician) 2 is not only 
conducting himself in a quiet and Christian way agreeable to everybody, 
but in addition he shows such outstanding qualifications in his profession 
that he can perform both vocaliter and instrumentaliter in church and in 
honourable gatherings in a manner we cannot remember ever to have 
witnessed in this place before. 5 This was of course sufficient for 
Ambrosius to get the requested permission. Shortly afterwards the 
Council suggested to the Prince that during periods of public mourning 
after the death of a member of the princely house, when instrumental 
music was forbidden at weddings, etc., the town musician should be com- 
pensated for the resulting loss of Accidentien by payment of one florin for 
each wedding. Again the argument ran like this: 'Such a compensation 
was granted to the former Hausmann; how much more is it deserved by 
the present most competent town musician!' The Prince agreed, and from 
a statement of account for 1672-73 we learn that Ambrosius was paid 
20 fl. under this title. To be granted such a premium after only eighteen 
months' service was something unheard-of in the impecunious little 
Residenz. There is no doubt that Ambrosius was highly thought of by 

1 Cf. Stadtarchiv Eisenach B, XXV, CI, where the documents referring to 
Ambrosius, unless specifically mentioned, are to be found. 

2 Rollberg in 'Von den Eisenacher Stadtpfeifern,' Jena, 1932, claims that the 
expression Hausmann frequendy used for the town musician points to his duties in the 
city house, i.e. the town hall. He was sometimes also called Haustaube, house-pigeon, 
because of his domicile in the city tower. 


the very Council which had not a single word of appreciation for Johann 
Christoph Bach's outstanding contribution to Eisenach's musical life. In 
this the city fathers only echoed what the whole population felt. Two 
other contemporary appreciations relating to Ambrosius have been 
preserved. One is by a certain Georg Dressel, a carpenter, who wrote a 
chronicle of important events in the years 1 648-73. 1 Dressel describes a 
festal Easter service, in which the Cantor, Schmidt, and the organist, 
Johann Christoph Bach, took part together with the town musician and 
his assistants. The chronicler's entire attention, however, is centred on 
brilliant Ambrosius, and he records: '1672 at Easter, when Prince Johann 
Georg and his spouse made their entry, the new Hausmann performed 
with organs, violins, singers, trumpets and kettledrums, as no Cantor or 
Hausmann has done as long as Eisenach stood.' A more indirect descrip- 
tion of Ambrosius' achievements is supplied by a petition which his 
subsequent colleague, the Cantor Andreas Christian Dedekind, made 
after the town musician's premature death. He recommended a kinsman 
of Ambrosius, the town piper Christoph Hoffman of Suhl, for the posi- 
tion and remarked: 'Hoffmann has so assiduously worked on his music, 
that in addition to good violin playing, he has mastered the cornetto, 
trombone, violone, and especially the trombetta, and eventually may hope 
almost to equal Mr. Bach.' 

It is obviously easier to fall under the spell of a gifted performer than 
to understand the new creations of a very original and profound com- 
poser. We therefore cannot be too surprised at the Council's preference 
for Ambrosius over his cousin, Johann Christoph, who, on the performing 
side, was badly handicapped by the defective instrument of St. George's 
which he generally used. Moreover artistic reasons were not the only ones 
urged in Ambrosius' favour; what weighed still more was his 'quiet and 
Christian' conduct. We hear nothing of debts, advances, or frequent 
changes of domicile. For the three years when the city paid the rent, 
Ambrosius lived in a house, which still stands to-day (111. IX), with the 
chief forester, Balthasar Schneider, who was godfather to the first of his 
tenant's children to be born in Eisenach. 2 Afterwards Ambrosius bought 

1 Cf. H. Helmbold, 'Bilder aus Eisenachs Vergangenheit,' II, Eisenach, 1928. 

2 This house (to-day Rittergasse 11, situated at the back of the present Bach- 
Museum) offers with its beautiful wood-carved facade a fine example of 17th-century 
architecture. It is the only house in Eisenach which can definitely be proved to have 
been the domicile of Ambrosius Bach, while the old tradition, claiming the house on 
Trauenplan 21,' housing the Bach-Museum, as Sebastian's birthplace, is not upheld by 
the thorough researches of Rollberg, Helmbold, and Kiihn (the latter a Bach descendant 
himself). These experts ascertained through the study of tax assessments and other 


•a "a 


u ^ 





his own house, paying his tax regularly. It required a thrifty disposition 
to run a household as large as that of the town musician. Ambrosius' 
duties involved keeping at least two apprentices and two assistants; his 
mother-in-law and the half-witted sister stayed with him until they died; 1 
and, finally, eight children grew up in the Bach household. Among them 
were Johann Christoph (22), christened in Erfurt on June 18, 1671; 
Johann Jakob (23), christened in Eisenach on February n, 1682; and 
finally Johann Sebastian christened in Eisenach on March 23, 1685. 2 It 
is also probable that yet another Johann Christoph Bach (17), son of 
Johann Christian in Erfurt, who attended the Eisenach Latin school in 
1683-84, stayed with the hospitable Ambrosius (cf. p. 97). To provide 
for all these called for excellent management, and apparently both 
Ambrosius and Elisabeth were much better qualified to cope with such 
problems than their cousins in Eisenach, the great Johann Christoph and 
his spouse, Elisabeth. It is significant that while Johann Christoph Bach 
the organist kept going only with the help of loans and advances, 
Ambrosius Bach the town musician was well enough off to give up the 
income derived from some of the extra-musical duties of the Hausmann. 
According to an account preserved, more than a quarter of Ambrosius' 
salary was withheld by the city fathers, as a deputy had to perform the 
following parts of the town musician's work: ringing the bell in the bell- 
tower as a time signal; ringing a certain bell intended to remind the people 

contemporary documents that the house was owned at the time of Sebastian's birth by 
Heinrich Borstelmann, rector of the Latin school, while it was in nearby Lutherstrasse 35 
that Ambrosius and his family lived in 1685. A heated controversy raged between these 
scholars on the one side and their opponents, H. A. Winkler and C. Freyse, curator of the 
Bach-Museum; a controversy which was ultimately stopped by the German Government, 
which was anxious to preserve the attraction of the Bach-Museum to tourists. But even if 
the claims as to the authenticity of the house on 'Frauenplan 21' as Sebastian's birthplace 
cannot be upheld, the Museum deserves our attention. The beautiful house is located in a 
part of Eisenach where Ambrosius actually lived, and as it dates from the right period, it 
gives a good idea of what Sebastian's birthplace may have looked like. On the other hand, 
the house on Lutherstrasse is of no interest, as nothing of the old structure has been 
preserved. In the last war the Bach-Museum was badly damaged through air attacks, but 
thanks to the help of American troops, the house was quickly restored with material taken 
from other contemporary buildings, and the work has been done so skilfully that even 
old friends of the Museum did not notice any change in it when they visited it after the 
war. Cf. the report of the Curator Conrad Freyse in BJ, 1940-48. 

1 Eva Barbara Lammerhirt was buried in Eisenach in 1673; Dorothea Maria Bach in 

2 The other five children were Johann Balthasar (1673-91), Johann Jonas (1675-85), 
Maria Salome (b. 1677), Johanna Juditha (1680-86), Johann Nicolaus (b. 1683). The last 
one is not mentioned in the Eisenach church register, but Helmbold found his name in 
the school register and places him between Johann Jakob and Johann Sebastian. 


that taxes were due on that day; and the yearly safety inspection of fire- 
places. Evidently Ambrosius was so much in demand for musical work 
that he could afford to lose this not inconsiderable amount. At times he 
even played at weddings in other towns; Cantor Dedekind reports, for 
instance, that he once performed at such an occasion at Ohrdruf together 
with Johann Pachelbel and with his kinsman, Christoph Hoffmann. 1 
From 1677 onward Ambrosius also formed part of the newly established 
small band of Prince Johann Georg I, and got a yearly honorarium of 
19 h\, 9 pf., plus a generous New Year's gift, which in 1679, for example, 
amounted to half the salary paid by the Prince. 2 

Taking all this into account, Ambrosius earned not more, perhaps 
even less, than his cousin. But not only was he a clever manager — a gift 
he was to pass on to his youngest son — he was more frugal in his ambi- 
tions. For instance, he did not burden himself with a costly schooling for 
his children, but thought rather of their musical training. The two sons, 
who reached maturity while their father was alive, were both apprenticed 
to musicians after they had finished with the third class of the Latin school. 
It will be remembered that Ambrosius' cousin, Johann Christoph, 
thought differently in this matter. The divergences in their outlook and 
in their financial status may have prevented the two families from be- 
coming really friendly. It is significant that neither of the two Bachs 
appeared as godfather to the other's sons. 3 Ambrosius certainly had a 
high regard for his cousin's creative work, whereas Johann Christoph 
may have looked down on the town musician as merely a performer. For 
it seems that Ambrosius' composing, if he undertook any at all, was of 
no great importance. None of his descendants ever mentioned him as a 
creative artist, and not a line of music by him has been preserved. As he 
started a collection of compositions by other Bachs — an enterprise 
eagerly continued by Sebastian — it seems unlikely that he would have 
omitted his own works had there been any. 

Altogether Ambrosius spent twenty-four years in Eisenach. When he 
had served there for a dozen years, he seriously considered a change. In 
Erfurt Johann Christian (7) and Johann Nikolaus Bach (9) died in 1682 

1 It may be that the three musicians gathered to celebrate the wedding of Ambrosius' 
eldest son, Johann Christoph, to Dorothea von Hof, which took place in Ohrdruf in 
October 1694. Pachelbel may have attended the wedding, as he was the bridegroom's 

2 Cf. Weimarer Archiv, Eisenacher Dienersachen No. 49, and Wartburg-Archiv 
(Rechnungen des fursdichen Hauses). 

3 Johann Christoph once acted as a substitute at the christening of a daughter of 
Ambrosius, since the godfather, Johann Pachelbel, was detained in Erfurt. 


from the plague, and while their brother, Johann Egidius (8) took over 
as director of the band, the positions of the two other Bachs had to be 
filled. The authorities remembered Ambrosius and invited him to return 
to Erfurt. 1 Ambrosius felt very much like accepting; he was ready for a 
change, and his wife may have urged him too, as she had many relatives 
living in Erfurt. First, however, his resignation had to be accepted by his 
Eisenach superiors. In April 1684 he addressed a lengthy petition to 
them in which he brought forth all the matters giving cause for complaint, 
mainly his bad financial status due to numerous periods of public 
mourning, the unwillingness of many citizens to pay the prescribed rates 
for wedding music, and the ever-recurring difficulties with the 'beer 
fiddlers' (cf. p. 16) which made him 'quite impatient and vexed.' An- 
other reason for dissatisfaction, which Ambrosius did not see fit to men- 
tion in his petition, was a cut in the salary he received for his services at 
court. When after nineteen days no answer came, he urged a decision in a 
second petition, emphasizing his troubles with the 'beer fiddlers' who, ac- 
cording to regulation, were supposed to perform at weddings only with 
the special permission of, and on payment to, the town musician: 'I always 
have arguments with them, as they never care to accept my arrangements 
if it so happens that several weddings occur at the same time; one runs 
hither, the other thither, to get the preference, and I have nothing but 
trouble.' But poor Ambrosius had no luck. The Eisenach city fathers 
were too satisfied with their Hausmann to grant him the requested per- 
mission. Instead they wrote to the Erfurt authorities informing them of 
their determination to keep Ambrosius in their service and asking them 
to desist from further offers. Ambrosius had to stay on in Eisenach. It 
does not seem likely, however, that he took his defeat too hardly, once 
his first anger had cooled off. Somehow his complaints in the two petitions 
do not ring as true as the repeated desperate appeals of his organist cousin. 
Of course he would have liked to better his position, but after all he was 
not so badly off in Eisenach; for one thing, it had the great advantage of 
having been left untouched by the plague that had ravaged Erfurt in past 
years. Moreover his work at court became more interesting when in 1685 
the versatile Daniel Eberlin again appeared in Eisenach and became 
conductor of the princely band. The size of the orchestra was increased 
and performances took place more frequently. Thus the town musician 
found a greater amount of employment at court, and Prince Johann 
Georg II, who took over the government in 1686, decided to cancel 

1 It is quite possible that the directorship was offered to Ambrosius, and only given 
to Egidius when Ambrosius was unable to accept, but this point cannot be decided as yet. 


the cut in salary which his predecessor had seen fit to impose on 

There followed a pleasant time in the life of the town piper. His 
eldest son, Johann Christoph, who had studied in Erfurt with the great 
Johann Pachelbel and subsequently assisted his aged kinsman, Heinrich 
Bach, in Arnstadt, was appointed organist in the city of Ohrdruf, 1 a posi- 
tion he was to hold throughout his life. Besides experiencing the satis- 
faction of seeing the youth well established, the father had the joy of 
discovering the unusual talent of his youngest child. Ambrosius taught 
little Sebastian the violin and could not fail to be gladdened by the boy's 
response to his teaching. 

Unfortunately this happy family life did not last long. In August 1693 
Ambrosius suffered a grave loss, when his beloved twin brother, his 
second self, died in Arnstadt. Only a few months later yet another tragic 
event occurred with the sudden death of his dear wife, Elisabeth. While 
still reeling from the impact of these two shocks, the harassed widower 
had to keep the household going for his young sons, his apprentices and 
assistants. As his only daughter was just leaving home to marry an Erfurt 
citizen, and since for people of his social standing the engagement of a 
paid housekeeper was out of the question, there was only one solution 
open to Ambrosius: he had to marry again as speedily as possible. He 
chose an Arnstadt woman well known to the Bach family, Barbara 
Margarethe Keul, twice widowed, who had been married to his cousin, 
Johann Gimther (cf. p. 22). The wedding took place in November 1694, 
half a year after Elisabeth's death. But though Ambrosius valiantly strove 
to continue his normal way of life, the two losses he had suffered under- 
mined his health. Two months after the wedding he fell ill; on January 31, 
1695, he received Holy Communion at home, and on February 24 he was 
buried. The happenings of the last months had necessitated much expendi- 
ture and there was little money left over for the widow and orphaned 
children. Barbara Margarethe endeavoured to make the best of a difficult 
situation. She wrote a spirited petition to the Council in which she cited 
the case of Ambrosius' twin brother in Arnstadt, whose position had 
been handled by the widow with the help of the assistants and apprentices 
for eighteen months, and asked for the same privilege. In this lengthy 

1 The appointment may have been secured through the recommendation of his 
Arnstadt uncle, Johann Christoph (12), whose wife came from Ohrdruf. Incidentally the 
young organist was not the first of the name to reside in Ohrdruf. The name of Bach is 
found among the Ohrdruf citizens as early as 1472. In 1564 and 1565 two girls by the name 
of Bach from Wechmar were married in Ohrdruf; they may well have been sisters or aunts 
of Veit Bach. 


document she claimed that the Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt was most 
anxious to employ a Bach again, but 'as the good Lord had apparently- 
dried up the whole clan of Bach musicians within a few years, 1 the best 
he could do was to engage the widow of a Bach.' Naturally Sebastian's 
stepmother could not foresee that what seemed to her the end was in fact 
the beginning of the most glorious phase in the history of the Bach family. 
Her pleadings to the Council were of no avail, however. The Eisenach 
city fathers, quickly forgetting their appreciation of Ambrosius' services, 
paid the widow only what was strictly and legally due to her, viz. the 
salary for one-and-a-half quarters. They engaged Johann Heinrich Halle 
from Gottingen as town musician, and Ambrosius' family had to leave. 
The widow returned to Arnstadt; the elder son, Johann Jakob, was to be 
apprenticed with the new Hausmann, and the younger one, Johann 
Sebastian, remained in the care of his eldest brother, Johann Christoph, 
organist at Ohrdruf. 

1 Actually the Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt had lost in 1692 the organist, 
Heinrich Bach; in 1693 the town musician, Johann Christoph Bach (12); in 1694 the 
organist of Gehren, Johann Michael Bach (14). 


looking back on the lives of the Bach musicians in the first hundred 
years of their professional service, we find a definite pattern established. 
Certain Bach centres were formed where the sons followed the father in 
office, and simultaneously various kinsmen were attracted as reinforce- 
ments. The largest group was assembled in Erfurt, where all three sons 
of Johannes Bach found work at certain times, and where many of their 
children were born. Arnstadt was hardly less important; it witnessed the 
activities of Heinrich and Christoph Bach, and of several sons. In 
Schweinfurt and Ohrdruf too, Bach musicians settled down, establishing 
a tradition to be upheld through several generations. Most significant of 
all, however, was Eisenach. Here lived the greatest Bach composer of the 
17th century side by side with the man whose son was to bestow im- 
mortality on the clan. 

After the Bachs had grown roots in certain towns and become an 
integral part of each town's musical life, a social rise took place. Instead of 
living as 'house-pigeons' in the city tower, they became house-owners. 
They took their wives from higher social ranks. While the wife of 
Johannes Bach was an innkeeper's daughter, and her sons, Johann and 
Heinrich, stayed strictly within their own sphere by marrying two 
daughters of Johann's master, the town piper of Suhl, Heinrich's sons 
were more ambitious. Two of them married daughters of an Arnstadt 
syndic, the third the daughter of the town's former mayor. Their cousin, 
Ambrosius, did just as well by choosing the daughter of an Erfurt Council 
member. It is also significant that many of the younger Bachs attended all 
the classes of the Latin school, and some aspired to the position of a 
learned Cantor. 

To achieve all this during one of the hardest periods in German 
history required outstanding vitality and driving power. These the Bachs 
certainly possessed, and in addition they were endowed with a deep 
loyalty to the family which made them give each other unstinted help in 
critical situations. But even if there was no practical purpose involved, 
they loved getting together. At that time the family gatherings were 
instituted which Forkel, on information supplied by Emanuel Bach, 
described as follows: 



'As it was impossible for them all to live in one place, they resolved at 
least to see each other once a year and fixed a certain day upon which they 
had all to appear at an appointed place. Even after the family had become 
much more numerous and first one and then another of the members had 
been obliged to settle outside Thuringia . . . they continued their annual 
meetings, which generally took place at Erfurt, Eisenach, or Arnstadt. 
Their amusements during the time of their meeting were entirely musical. 
As the company consisted wholly of cantors, organists, and town 
musicians who had all to do with the Church, the first thing they did . . . 
was to sing a chorale. From this pious commencement they proceeded to 
drolleries which often made a very great contrast with it. For now they 
sang popular songs, the contents of which were partly comic and partly 
naughty, all together and extempore, but in such a manner that the several 
parts thus extemporized made a kind of harmony together, the words, 
however, in every part being different. They called this ... a quodlibet, 
and not only laughed heartily at it themselves, but excited an equally 
hearty and irresistible laughter in everyone that heard them.' 

As artists the first Bachs worked almost exclusively for the Protestant 
Church. The substantial number of motets they produced shows their 
faithful adherence to the great traditions of the past. Judging from the 
works preserved, the realm of secular music was hardly discovered by 
these early masters. Their most daring advances into this unexplored 
territory consisted of occasional semi-sacred cantatas or a set of clavier 
variations on a dance theme. Real versatility was still lacking in the 

The Bachs produced in this period a number of great talents. Johann, 
Heinrich, Georg Christoph, and particularly Johann Michael were all 
composers fully conversant with the style and technical innovations of 
the church music in their time. On a much higher level stood the work of 
Johann Christoph (13), who might be considered the first genius of the 
family. His artistic independence, his emotional fervour, and his genuine 
sense of humour secure him a unique position among the composers of 
his period. It is by no means accidental that works by Johann Christoph 
and by his father, Heinrich Bach, were to be found in a collection of 
choral music established in Liineburg some 200 miles north of Thuringia. 

Johann Sebastian, a true Bach in every respect, faithfully and proudly 
collected the works of his forebears. He studied and performed them and, 
as a matter of course, he followed in his own compositions the path the 
older Bachs had shown him. 

vni. Johann Ambrosius Bach, father of Sebastian 

ix. The house, n, Rittergasse (centre of picture), in which J. Ambrosius Bach 
lived during the first three years of his stay in Eisenach 





(1700- 1750) 


a s a result of the Thirty Years War in Germany, the central government 
had practically ceased to exist. The ruling family of the Hapsburgs was 
far more concerned with increasing its private possessions than with the 
common good of the Reich; Swedish and French influences were strong 
within Germany; and no attempt was made to pursue a unified national 

Instead of a central government, more than three hundred independent 
princes reigned in Germany. Although the domain of some of them 
measured no more than a few square miles, they considered themselves 
little short of Caesars. They were absolute rulers within the borders of 
their states, aping the characteristic maxim of their great model, Louis 
XIV, Vitat, cest moi. Each of them wished to build his own Versailles 
and to organize festivities that would emulate in magnificence and splen- 
dour those of the roi soleil. This attitude of absolutism finds perfect 
expression in the monument to the Great Elector of Brandenburg erected 
in the first decade of the 18th century by Andreas Schluter and his pupils. 
In lonely grandeur, like a Roman Emperor, with majestically extended 
arm, the Prince sits on his passive horse, while at his feet four slaves are 
shown writhing in their chains. For the Baroque observer, the figures of 
these slaves were essential as symbols of the sovereign's unlimited power. 

The funds for the traditional displays of lavishness were raised mainly 
by excessive taxation of the peasants, who formed more than two-thirds 
of the population and who were kept in a condition little short of slavery. 
Sometimes even worse methods were employed to fill the empty 
treasuries. The landgrave of Hesse and other German princes made 
millions of thalers by selling their subjects to the British and Dutch who 
needed soldiers for their foreign wars. In America, too, German merce- 
naries were employed in an attempt to suppress the United Colonies' 
movement towards independence. The princes considered themselves 
particularly fortunate if these men were killed in action, since an extra 
premium was paid for those who failed to return. 

Not only the sovereign but the common man, too, was desirous of 
being seen in oversized dimensions. The successful merchant and burgher 
tried to compete in lavishness with the Prince. In Munich, two artists — 



the brothers Cosmas and Egid Asam — built a church next to their resi- 
dence almost entirely at their own expense; it was small in dimensions, but 
as resplendent as a cathedral in its display of magnificent pictures and 
gilded statues. The rich decorated the walls of their houses with paintings 
simulating vistas of wide colonnades and formal gardens; while clouds 
painted on the ceilings of ballrooms and even vestibules seemed to lead 
the glance right into heaven. The formal, full-bottomed wig with curls 
which men were pleased to wear, and the pompous crinoline of the 
women were intended to add dignity to the wearers. 

Particularism flourished in the Christian Church too. Besides being 
subjected to merciless attacks from the ranks of freethinkers, the Church 
was also divided within itself. Catholicism, tenaciously struggling to 
regain the territory it lost during the Reformation, was confronted by a 
divided force of Lutherans and Calvinists, whose members attacked each 
other with the same bitterness as they displayed in their fight against the 
Pope. A deep cleavage of opinion separated even the members of the 
Lutheran faith. While the Orthodox group adhered with stubborn and 
narrow-minded bigotry to the letter of the Word, and refused to admit the 
slightest deviation from petrified traditions, the 'Pietists' claimed the 
rights of the heart and the necessity for an individual approach to the 
faith. As in other doctrinal feuds, the strife between the two factions was 
conducted with the utmost violence and no mercy from either side was 
asked or granted. 

It cannot surprise us that the detrimental effects and dangers of such 
excessive particularism were keenly felt, and that everywhere the best 
thinkers were striving to counteract it. In the field of religion, attempts 
were made to reconcile the Calvinistic and Lutheran Churches, and to 
unite them in a new 'Evangelical-Apostolic' creed. Some wise men even 
tried to regard Catholics and Protestants not as enemies engaged in a 
deadly struggle, but rather as brothers able to reconcile their disagree- 
ments. Karl Ludwig, the Calvinist Elector of the Palatinate, built in Mann- 
heim the famous 'Peace Church,' to be used by all three creeds, Catholics, 
Lutherans, and Calvinists alike. Although none of these endeavours met 
with any tangible success, they were nevertheless of vital significance, 
since they paved the way for the idea of religious tolerance which was to 
become of fundamental importance in the second half of the century. 
Whereas in the 16th century each religious party had attempted to force 
its ideas on the others, towards the end of the 17th it was gradually 
realized that each faction would have to make concessions in order to 
reach a reconciliation of the different points of view. When agreement 


seemed to be impossible, even on this basis, the best minds of the 18th 
century came to the conclusion that it was the duty of the different de- 
nominations to preserve their idiosyncrasies, while respecting and 
tolerating those of other religious sects. 

The existence of similar urges towards unification may be detected in 
the fields of political and philosophical thought. Leibniz, the greatest 
German thinker at the close of the 17th century, dreamed of a sign lan- 
guage, on an algebraic basis, which would enable all nations to under- 
stand each other. This Utopian idea took a practical turn in the founding 
of academies in Berlin, and later also in St. Petersburg, with the object of 
promoting the study and knowledge of science, and with it a mutual 
understanding between nations. The new academies were based on the 
conviction that human society can be better served by co-operation and 
mutual help than by individual efforts. 

Leibniz's philosophy, which was of the greatest importance to the 
spiritual life of the 18th century, was a monumental attempt to view the 
universe as a harmonious structure, governed in all its aspects by identical 
laws. According to his ideas, 'monads' are the constituent elements of all 
things. They are not dead objects, but living forces, imbued with a 
tendency to act. Every 'monad' is a microcosm, reflecting in 'pre- 
established harmony' the ideas of the universe, although with immensely 
varying degrees of perfection. The lowest monads, such as those contained 
in metals and stones, have only dim and vague notions, while the most 
exalted monad, God, is endowed with completely distinct and lucid 
perceptions. Man stands somewhere in the middle of this ladder; his im- 
perfect senses place him among the lower monads, but his reasoning mind 
advances him towards the highest one. Thus Leibniz succeeded in creating 
a cosmology into which every element, even the least significant, fits 

In the fine arts a certain co-ordination of styles was also achieved, 
although not by conscious effort. It was rather the consequence of condi- 
tions altogether hostile to the arts. As a result of the Thirty Years War 
there existed a kind of artistic vacuum in Germany, until the need for new 
forms and ideas was satisfied by the neighbouring countries. The Catholic 
South of Germany, and in particular Austria, was stimulated by Italian 
architecture and painting; and in the North the strict Dutch style in- 
fluenced sculpture and architecture. Finally, during the 18th century, 
French forms, penetrating the whole of Central Europe from the West, 
invaded every type of art. Thus Germany became a meeting-ground for 
the artistic products of different nations. 


In the field of music a movement towards unification was as much in 
evidence as it was in any other branch of spiritual life. In distinction to the 
fine arts, the bond connecting the 16th and 17th centuries had never been 
completely severed. The German Renaissance tradition of a sturdy poly- 
phonic texture was carried over into the Baroque period, and the develop- 
ment of an interesting harmonic basis added substance and solidity to the 
contrapuntal structure. To these specifically Central European character- 
istics there were added numerous other features, which had been imported 
both from the South and West. Italy contributed the sensual charm and 
dramatic power of its melodies, the great art oibel canto and of singing on 
stringed instruments, and the stile concertato with its competitive employ- 
ment of choruses of diverse character. It also gave German music the 
concerto, with one or more solo instruments, and the 'trio sonata' for 
two melody instruments and figured bass. France furnished the technique 
of training and equipping an orchestra, as well as the form of the 'over- 
ture,' consisting of a slow introduction, a substantial fast fugue, and a 
deliberate epilogue. She also provided impressive achievements in the 
field of harpsichord composition, the form of the dance suite, and the 
idea of programme music. There were composers in Germany, such as 
Christoph Graupner, who followed Italian models; others, like J. K. 
Ferdinand Fischer, came under the influence of French forms; a third 
group headed by the great organist, Johann Pachelbel, tried to achieve 
artistic unity within Germany itself by introducing the South-German 
virtuosity into the Northern part of the Reich. Of even greater significance 
was the contribution of those men who felt the need for a fusion of 
Western, Southern, and Central European music. The Austrian Georg 
Muffat, for instance, studied first in Paris with Lully and later in Rome 
with Corelli. The results of this diversified instruction can easily be 
detected in MufFat's orchestra suites, his concern grossi and trio sonatas. 
Other composers too, like Johann Friedrich Fasch and the versatile Georg 
Philipp Telemann, were equally at home in the national styles of the 
West and the South. However, it must be strongly emphasized that these 
men never imitated their models mechanically. By a slow process of assi- 
milation, and always conscious of their own polyphonic and harmonic 
heritage, German composers gradually evolved the strongly unified style 
that is characteristic of the 'late Baroque' era (1700-1750) in their country. 

The Bach family, whose home lay in the very heart of Germany, 
played an important part in this movement. Its central offspring, Johann 
Sebastian, became the greatest force in this struggle to achieve musical 


Johannes (2) 

Christoph (5) Heinrich (6) 

1613-61 1615-92 


J. Ambrosius (11) 

J. Christoph (i3)«=El. Wedemann J. Michael (i4) = Cath. Wedemann 

1 642- 1 703 

1 646- 1 703 1648-94 


J. Sebastian (24) 


J. Nicolaus (27) J. Christoph (28) J. Friedrich (29) Maria Barbara 

1669-1753 1676-? 1682-1730 1684-1720 

it will be remembered that the sons of the great Johann Christoph (13) 
were given a good education, and that the eldest, Johann Nicolaus (27), 1 
christened October 17, 1669, even had the opportunity of attending the 
University of Jena after leaving the Eisenach Latin school in 1689. This 
was a luxury which Johann Christoph, constantly harassed by financial 
worries, could ill afford, but somehow he managed it. Possibly some help 
was given by the Jena organist, Johann Magnus Kniipfer, 2 who had been 
Johann Christoph's pupil and may have been glad to have young Nicolaus 
to help him in the discharge of his duties. Although poverty must have 
excluded the youth from most of the students' favourite pastimes, it was 
still a wise move for him to go to Jena. The talented and versatile musician 
quickly made friends, and he was so well thought of that in 1695 he was 
given the position of town organist and music teacher at the University. 
By the time Nicolaus, at the age of 26, received his permanent appoint- 

1 He acquired the name of Nicolaus, rather infrequently chosen among the Bachs, 
from his godfather, the court organist, Nicolaus Kerner, of Gotha. Another godfather was 
his kinsman, Johann Christoph Hoffmann from Suhl (cf. p. 64). 

2 Kniipfer was the son of Sebastian Kniipfer, Thomas Cantor at Leipzig from 1657 to 
1676. The fact that the Thomas Cantor sent his son to Eisenach for his musical training 
proves the high esteem enjoyed by Johann Christoph Bach. Cf. H. A. Winkler, 'Neues 
uber den Jenaer Bach,' in 'Jenaische Zeitung,' 1933. 



ment, he had seen much more of the world than his father had. An oppor- 
tunity rare indeed among the Bachs had come his way when a young 
friend, Georg v. Bertuch (incidentally, a student of Daniel Eberlin, the 
former Eisenach conductor), had invited him to travel to Italy. Bertuch 
had been forced to give up his plan just when they arrived at the Italian 
border, but Nicolaus had continued. Many benefits were derived from 
this experience, one of them a mastery of the Italian language, which is 
apparent in an album-leaf 1 Nicolaus wrote at the age of 75 in remarkably 
clear handwriting. Yet, in spite of all the beauties he had seen in Italy, he 
found Jena a good place to live in. 

The town's site was considered an extremely salubrious one, and an 
enthusiastic visitor had gone so far as to compare its 'fresh air, good water, 
high mountains, shady forests, gay fields, and merry vineyards' to Para- 
dise. And even if Jena's natural attractions may with equal justice be 
attributed to lovely Eisenach, the mental atmosphere in the University 
town was certainly much more stimulating. In the later decades of the 
17th century science began to assume an important role in the University, 
and gradually to change its entire outlook. When Nicolaus Bach came to 
Jena, the most conspicuous personality there was the mathematician and 
astronomer, Erhard Weigel, whose reputation was so great that it made 
young Leibniz move from Leipzig to Jena for his studies. The house that 
Weigel built was a source of incredulous astonishment to every visitor to 
Jena. Nicolaus Bach, who was himself tremendously interested in technical 
inventions, must have loved being carried upstairs by block-and-tackle, 
seeing water pumped up by a hydraulic engine to all the storeys of the 
unusually high building (something like a 17th-century skyscraper), and 
most of all, watching the Professor's ingenious 'Cellar-maid' at work. By 
this device, when water was poured into a funnel in the living-room and 
a nearby faucet was opened, real wine came tumbling out, brought right 
up from the cool cellar. Not only in science, but also in various other 
domains of knowledge there was much activity to be observed in Jena; 
and it is significant that the tiny town boasted no less than nine printing 
firms and eight book-stores. The exceeding roughness of the students' 
manners was probably accepted as a matter of course by the organist. 
Being a Bach, for whom belligerency was something like a clan-attribute, 
he may even have enjoyed the ever-recurring fights and duels between 
students. Rowdiness also prevailed in the 'Collegium Musicum,' a 
students' organization for the performance of music which flourished in 
Jena from the time of the 16th century. On one occasion tempers rose so 

1 Preserved in the Manfred Gorke Collection, now in Leipzig. 


high that a horn and a viol were broken on the body of the director. 1 If 
this incident occurred during the conductorship of Nicolaus Bach, he 
probably gave back as much as he received. It is also unlikely that he 
minded the general heavy drinking, a custom sanctioned even by the 
medicos, who pronounced that 'the city's dry air made imperative a 
constant humectation of the throat.' 

A few years after receiving his appointment, Nicolaus had the chance 
of a change in his work. Both his father and his mother died in 1703 and 
Nicolaus, as the eldest son, was anxious to help his younger brothers, 
especially Johann Christoph (28). His father had wanted the latter to suc- 
ceed him as Eisenach's city organist, but as Johann Christoph was then 
in Liibeck, probably to hear Buxtehude, just as his cousin Sebastian was 
to do two years later, Nicolaus made the application on his brother's 
behalf. He informed the authorities that Johann Christoph was hastening 
back to Eisenach to give a trial performance, and stressed the importance 
of having the work on the organ of St. George's Church, in which his 
father had been so deeply concerned (cf. p. 36), concluded under the 
supervision of a member of the family. If the city fathers found young 
Johann Christoph too inexperienced, he, Nicolaus, would be glad to work 
for the time being until the authorities considered the young man ready 
to assume the duties of the appointment. 2 In a second petition Nicolaus 
mentioned that Prince Johann Wilhelm of Eisenach was favourable to 
this suggestion. But it was all to no avail. The City Council was definitely 
not interested in the former organist's young namesake, and offered the 
position to Nicolaus himself, who had proved his ability at Jena and, 
incidentally, given an excellent trial performance in Eisenach. Nicolaus 
declined, however, feeling averse to leaving the University town, 
especially as he was just trying to induce the city authorities to build a 
new organ. In this he followed closely in his father's footsteps. Not only 
did he recommend the organ builder, Georg Christoph Stertzing, who 
had been employed for Eisenach's Georgenkirche, but he also urged the 
Council, in spite of low funds in the treasury, to plan a first-rate instru- 
ment. He felt sure the citizens would welcome the ambitious project as a 
means of expressing their gratitude for the privilege of living in Jena. 'It 
is hardly conceivable,' he wrote, 'that infectious diseases may spread in 

1 Cf. Fritz Stein in 'Die Musik,' 1912. 

2 The application is somewhat vague at this point, probably on purpose. Rollberg in 
'Jenaische Zeitung,' 1933, assumes from it that Nicolaus was willing to resign in Jena. It 
seems more likely, however, that he planned to engage a substitute in Jena who would 
do his work until he could entrust the work in Eisenach to his brother. 


this city; one knows of no real war trouble here; good food, easily obtain- 
able, is not lacking; and who could enumerate all the benefits which God 
hath granted this town above others.' Nicolaus was as persuasive as his 
father had been for a similar purpose. An outstanding organ of 44 voices 
with 3 manuals and pedal was erected which was to serve Jena up to the 
20th century, and Nicolaus could proudly claim in 1708 that 'many 
organists came to Jena merely for the organ's sake, and left the town quite 
contented and with amazement.' 

The city organist's consummate skill in everything pertaining to the 
organ made the University authorities invite him subsequently to take 
charge of their own Kollegienkirche too. The instruction of the University, 
dated December 12, 171 9, is preserved, and we see that Nicolaus was to 
play the organ on Sundays and holidays in the mornings and afternoons, 
as well as at actibus academicis; that he was expected to produce 'fine 
music' on high feast-days and other occasions of thanksgiving, and to 
tune his instrument and attend to minor repairs. 

Nicolaus carried out all these duties in both churches up to the age of 
80, when, after an illness, he was forced to look for a substitute. Un- 
fortunately he was not destined to see one of his sons take over his work. 
In decided contrast to his own robust health, his offspring showed a sad 
lack of vitality and resiliency. Of the six children from his first marriage, 
contracted in 1697, only a single daughter survived early infancy, and she 
too died unmarried a few years before her father. The four children which 
a second wife bore him were healthier; but there was only one son among 
them and he died at the age of 21 as a student of philosophy. Nor was 
Nicolaus granted the joy of seeing one of his grandchildren grow into a 
musician likely to continue the family tradition. None of his daughters 
married young, and the only wedding in the family that he witnessed took 
place three weeks before his death. So Nicolaus chose as his substitute a 
certain Johann Heinrich Moller,a student of theology, who helped him for 
five years and, on the organist's death in 1754, became Bach's successor; 
whereupon he conformed to tradition by marrying in 1757 his prede- 
cessor's youngest daughter. But this couple, too, was not destined to 
carry on the Bach heritage. Their first son died as an infant; the mother 
passed on while giving birth to a second son; and the latter was run over 
and fatally injured by a carriage at the age of six. Another of Nicolaus' 
daughters became a widow after five weeks of married life, and the third 
had only one daughter, who died unwedded at the age of 32. Thus there 
was no progeny to inherit the vigour and versatility of the 'Jena Bach.' 

If Nicolaus' private life was full of sorrow and disappointment, he 


found an antidote in ceaseless industry in the most variegated fields. 
Apart from his work in the two Jena churches and his participation in the 
'Collegium Musicum,' Nicolaus devoted much time to teaching, for 
which, like his cousin Sebastian, he seems to have had a definite bent. 
Many young musicians came to Jena to study with him, among them the 
writer and organist, Jakob Adlung, and the lutanist, Ernst Gottlieb Baron. 
Bach was also most successful as a craftsman. Like his uncle, Johann 
Michael (14), by whom he had probably been trained, he was greatly 
interested and very proficient in the construction of musical instruments, 
delighting in planning various improvements. The harpsichords which 
he constructed were equipped with a special device invented by him. 
This enabled the player to select and combine the various registers by 
simply sliding the keyboard forwards or backwards, instead of using the 
traditional stop-buttons. Adlung seemed to think very highly of this 
invention, since he described it in great detail in his 'Musica Mechanica 
Organoedi.' 1 Nicolaus Bach was also famous for his Lautenwerk, which was 
meant to revive the diminishing interest in the lute by providing the 
instrument with a keyboard. The result was a kind of harpsichord using 
gut-strings of a length equal to those found on a lute. Nicolaus also added 
a lower register, so that his Lautenwerk included the compasses of the 
larger theorbo. When the inventor played this instrument, he 'deceived,' 
according to Adlung, 'the best lutanist; and as long as this man did not 
see the Lautenwerk, he would have taken his oath that it was an ordinary 
lute.' 2 The scholar further states that Nicolaus' Lautenwerk and his harpsi- 
chords were both easy to play . . . and accordingly, quite substantial 
amounts of money were paid for them. 'Herr Bach was given 60 Reichs- 
thalers for one with three manuals (a terrific amount considering the 
prices which are paid to-day!).' When in 1706 the new organ was built 
in the Stadtkirche, Nicolaus supervised the construction 'down to the 
minutest detail.' 3 He also invented little gadgets such as a counterweight 
filled with sand to facilitate the action of the organ bellows. In order to 
improve the tone of organs he developed a stopped pipe ending in a long 
cylinder that could be inserted more or less deeply into the pipe, thus 
changing its pitch. By marking on this cylinder the intervals of the 
tempered scale, Nicolaus hoped to have designed a reliable tool for the 
tuning of organs. However, he did not carry his theoretical speculations 
too far. When Johann Georg Neidhardt, the champion of the Vell- 

1 Berlin, 1768, II, pp. 108-9. 

2 'Musica Mechanica Organoedi,' II, p. 137. 

3 Adlung, ibid., I, pp. 244-5. 


tempered' system, offered to tune a register of stopped organ pipes with 
the help of a monochord (an acoustical instrument with a single string), 
Nicolaus challenged this method by tuning on the same organ a set of 
stopped pipes solely by ear. He was very pleased indeed when the result 
of his work sounded much better than that of the learned scholar. 1 

Nicolaus' brother, Johann Friedrich (29), was 21 when his parents 
died. He thereupon left the Latin school; he had been attending the first 
class, apparently with fine success, as the school authorities praised his 
ingenium bonum (good intellect). It seems likely that Nicolaus took 
care of him, having him attend the University of Jena and giving him 
musical instruction, and in return Friedrich helped the elder brother in 
his various duties. Anyway it was as a studiosus that Friedrich was 
described to the City Council of Miihlhausen, when Johann Sebastian 
Bach suggested that his cousin should succeed him in the position of 
organist at St. Blasius, which he was giving up in order to move to 
Weimar. Sebastian's recommendation had great influence with the city 
fathers. Moreover, Friedrich Bach was on his mother's side related with 
Councillor Bellstedt, 2 who had also been instrumental in securing Sebas- 
tian Bach's services. Thus studiosus Bach received the appointment, 
although at a lower salary than his cousin, and for twenty-two years, up to 
his death in 1730, he remained at his post in St. Blasius. Very little is 
known about his activities there; we only have a report that he, like his 
brother and his father, took a great interest in the reconstruction of an 
organ which was carried outunder his direction. We may assume that hegot 
on well with his superiors, for we find in the contemporary files no mention 
of any differences, such as those the Eisenach archives preserve in 
great numbers with regard to Friedrich's father. The lack of any evidence 
in the matter seems to disprove the report perpetuated in Gerber's 
Dictionary that Johann Friedrich Bach wasted his great talent through his 
predilection for drinking, which eventually made him unable to discharge 
his duties in a sober state. Johann Nikolaus Gerber claims to have heard 
this tale from his father, who as a youth had attended the Latin school at 
Miihlhausen and met Friedrich Bach there, learning much about the organ 
from him. Probably the older Gerber's memory was not quite reliable on 
this point; for we cannot imagine that the Miihlhausen Council, which 

1 Adlung, 'Anleitung zur Musikalischen Gelehrsamkeit,' Erfurt, 1758, p. 311. 

2 A brother of Councillor Bellstedt was city clerk in Arnstadt and married to a 
Wedemann girl. Friedrich's mother was also born a Wedemann, and so was Maria 
Barbara Bach's mother. Thus Friedrich Bach was both on his father's and his mother's 
side a cousin of Maria Barbara Bach. 


always showed itself to be most exacting, should have tolerated a drunken 
church employee for twenty-two years, and that not a single reprimand of 
the organist should be recorded in the city archives. 1 

Friedrich married late in life, at the age of 40. When his wife died four 
years later, he concluded a second union; but neither marriage produced 
any offspring. Thus, not through this son either was the heritage from the 
great Johann Christoph destined to be handed on to the later generations. 

That he was a composer worthy of the name of Bach seems to be 
revealed by an organ fugue in g, which Max Seiffert found in a manu- 
script of organ fugues by various masters handed down by the Leipzig 
organist, Johann Andreas Drobs. 2 Seiffert characterizes Friedrich's fugue 
as one of the best pieces written by any Bach before Sebastian. The 
author has failed to trace this composition, or any other work by the 
Miihlhausen organist, and was thus unable to pierce the darkness 
surrounding the creative work of Johann Friedrich Bach. 


Friedrich's brother, Nicolaus, was no less versatile as a composer than 
he was as a craftsman. Although only a few of his works have been pre- 
served, they reveal an artistic personality worthy of his great father. There 
is but little that can be said about his activities as an instrumental com- 
poser. Adlung mentions that he wrote 'several suites,' but none of them 
has so far come to light. A brief bicinium (two-part composition) for the 
organ on Nun freut euch, lieben Christen G'mein (Now rejoice, dear 
Christian community) is influenced by similar works by Johann Pachelbel. 
Greater importance, however, attaches to a Kyrie and Gloria, a. short Mass 
as it may be called, which was probably written in 1716, 3 for two violins, 

1 Cf. Georg Thiele, 'Die Familie Bach in Miihlhausen,' Miihlhausen, 1921. 

2 Cf. BJ, 1907. 

3 A manuscript of the work (which was in 1939 in the possession of Breitkopf & 
Hartel, Leipzig) is dated 'Meiningen, September 16, 1716.' Neither Spitta's theory 
{I.e., I, p. 130) that it may have been written by Johann Ludwig Bach, nor the assumption of 
the catalogue of the archives of Breitkopf & Hartel (Leipzig, 1925, p. 2, No. 8) that it is a 
manuscript by Sebastian Bach, can be upheld. The handwriting shows strong similarities 
to that of Nicolaus' Italian album-leaf (cf. p. 88) and it seems likely, therefore, that it 
represents an autograph by the Jena composer (cf. Winkler, I.e.). Perhaps Nicolaus had 
come to Meiningen to deliver an instrument of his construction and gave the score of the 
Mass to his kinsman, Johann Ludwig Bach, on this occasion. A second manuscript of the 
Mass has the date 1734; apparently the copy was written in this year. 


two violas, mixed chorus, basses, and continuo. This composition 
clearly reveals the influence that the trip to Italy had exercised on Nicolaus. 
The treatment of the voices and instruments, the melodic lines, particu- 
larly in the Christe eleison, the brief fugue of the second Kyrie leading 
after a short development to a completely homophonic section: these can 
easily be traced to North Italian melodies and particularly to sacred music 
by Caldara and Lotti. Nevertheless Nicolaus' work, using as its text two 
sections from the Ordinary of the Latin Mass, fits perfectly into the 
spirit and the liturgy of the German Lutheran Church. The composer 
deals with the Gloria as though it were a chorale motet, employing as a 
cantus firmus in long notes the melody of the hymn Allein Gott in der 
HoK (To God alone on High be praise), which in the Protestant liturgy 
replaces the Gloria of the Mass. Thus he combines in a single composition 
both the Protestant and Catholic versions of the same text. Such a pro- 
cedure was not unusual in the Bach family. Sebastian himself in his short 
Mass in F employs the hymn Christe, du Lamm Gottes (Christ, Thou 
Lamb of God) as a cantus firmus; and his pupil Johann Ernst Bach (34) writes 
a Kyrie and Gloria, introducing the chorale Es woll uns Gott gnadig sein 
(God have mercy on us). Similar instances may be detected even in the 
works of Sebastian's Leipzig predecessor, Kuhnau, and in compositions 
by Zachau and Telemann. 

The brief Kyrie of Nicolaus' Mass, consisting of the traditional three 
sections, makes an effective preparation for the more elaborate Gloria, 
In the latter, each of its four sections employs one verse of the chorale as a 
cantus firmus, sung by a mezzo-soprano, thus providing the fifth vocal 
part of the composition. The dramatic contrast between the quiet long 
notes of the hymn tune and the fast-moving, agitated setting of the Mass 
text is strengthened by the simultaneous use of two languages : German 
for the chorale, Latin for the Ordinary. No doubt the introduction of their 
native tongue into the Latin original made the Lutheran congregation 
fully aware that the Popish text had completely become their property. 1 
To avoid the inevitable monotony resulting from four statements of the 

1 Spitta's idea (I.e.) that the cantus firmus was originally meant for instruments and 
not for voices does not seem justified, since he subconsciously applies Johann Sebastian's 
attitude to the work of Nicolaus. For the Jena composer, Italian and German, Catholic and 
Protestant, were two excitingly opposed spheres which he tried to combine to the best of 
his ability; for the Leipzig master they formed an organic unit, the elements of which did 
not present any disturbing contradictions. The slight difficulty that the range of the soprano 
voice in the mixed quartet is usually higher than that in the cantus firmus may be easily 
overcome by giving the hymn tune to a larger group of singers, so as to make it always 
clearly audible. 


same cantus firmus melody, Nicolaus changes its rhythm from the 
common to triple time in the first section, Gloria in excelsis Deo, and the 
fourth section, Quoniam tu solus Sanctus. This fourth section also substi- 
tutes four violas for the ordinary combination of two violins and two 
violas. The return of the violins in the coda provides the impressive free 
double fugue of the Cum Sancto Spiritu with an element of additional 

There is (through the absence of the cantus firmus) a stylistic relation 
between introduction and coda, a rhythmic relation between the first and 
fourth sections, and a melodic link between the introduction and the 
second section. Only the third section, Domine,fili unigenite, modulating 
effectively from the predominant key of G to b at the words miserere 
nobis, preserves the independence of a somewhat contrasting middle part. 
It is deeply regrettable that this vigorous and exciting piece is the only 
product of Nicolaus' church music that has so far come to light. 

The Jena composer's second large work is as different from this Mass 
as two compositions by the same man can possibly be. It is a burlesque 
cantata of the kind known to us from Sebastian's 'Peasant Cantata,' a 
work that might equally well be performed on the stage as in the concert 
hall. Der Jenaische Wein- und Bierrufer (The Jena wine and beer crier) 
dramatizes a little farce taken from student life in Jena. Two timid young 
'foxes' (the nickname for inexperienced freshmen), Monsieur Peter and 
Monsieur Clemon, come from their little home-town to Jena, where they 
put up at the inn of their fellow countryman, Monsieur Caspar. The 
publican is advising them in a rather patronizing way how to behave, 
when their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of the wine and 
beer crier, Johannes, who announces the opening of a fresh cask in a 
neighbouring tavern. Urged on by the innkeeper, the two boys begin to 
tease the old man, who without the slightest hesitation repays them in 
kind. The students employ quite a few foul names, and at last an abusive 
term so enrages their victim that he threatens to complain to the President 
of the University. This intimidates the youths and they leave, singing a 
final aria in praise of Jena, in which the publican joins. 1 The work, which 
was probably written for the 'Collegium Musicum,' makes ample use of 
the student jargon with which Nicolaus was naturally fully conversant; 
and it reveals the composer as not averse from the occasional use of gross 
and vulgar jokes, a tendency he possessed in common with other members 

1 The new edition of the work by Fritz Stein calls for Johannes, also, to sing in the 
final number. This is both dramatically and musically wrong. The crier is far too angry 
to fall in with the students' song, and the composer did not provide any part for him. 


of his clan. The wine and beer crier, Johannes, is by no means a character 
invented by Bach. As early as 1681 the 'wine and beer crier who is also 
used as a nightwatchman and lives in the Johannisturm' is mentioned in a 
description of Jena. 1 This functionary held yet a third job; on Sundays 
and festival days he operated the bellows for the organist. Nicolaus there- 
fore had a good chance of studying his eccentricities at close range, 
especially since the same individual, whose real name was Hans Michael 
Vater, occupied the position from 1724 to 1743. It seems probable that the 
organist's humorous satire was aimed at Vater and was written during the 
latter's term of office. 

The music to this burlesque is of the simplest kind, very similar to the 
plain Singspiele of the contemporary Hamburg opera. The minute 
orchestra of two violins and basso continuo, which enlivens the musical 
texture by gay little accompanying figures (Ex. 17), the plain folksong- 

j) j) J> J? r , j n 

i j) i j) j l 




<jern um "Bier undWein^u.-malvo 


I i $W g ^ 

r J J \ 

J I J 1 

like melodies, the absence of any overture or complicated vocal forms, 
the use of singers who for most of the time are heard only in secco recita- 
tives or in simple arias: all this shows that some of the spirit of the new 
comic opera had found its way into Bach's work. There are only two 
ensemble numbers in this score: a gay duet at the beginning, and the 
charming trio at the end. The main attraction of the remaining numbers 
is furnished by the composer's art of humorous characterization. There are 
the students, alternately timid and insolent; the pompous crier, who one 
moment praises his wares in a majestic manner and then in the same 
breath addresses his opponents with the most vulgar invective; and 
finally, the innkeeper who pretends to be very superior but is at the 
bottom of the whole mischief. Here we see the dramatic talent revealed in 
the compositions of Johann Christoph Bach coming to full blossom in 
the work of his son. 

1 Cf. Adr. Beier, 'Architectus Jenaensis,' 1681 

x. Johann Ludwig Bach. Pastel by Gottlieb Friedrich Bach 

»7!U- + piftfoi . (0**^' * 4^'" i* 1 : •'^' t '^ * i^-*-, ^-^C" 

xi. J. Ludwig Bach's Cantata 'Gott ist unser Zuversicht' in the hand of J. 
Sebastian Bach. In order to make best use of the expensive paper Sebastian 
starts the following aria on the bottom of the page although the first chorus 

is not yet finished 


Johannes (2) 


Johann (4)=Hedwig Lammerhirt 



J. Christian (7) 

J. Egidius (8) 

Christoph (5) 

J. Ambrosius (n)=Elisab. Lammerhirt 
1645-95 1644-94 

J. Jakob (16) J. Christoph (17) J. Bernhard (18) J. Christoph (19) J. Sebastian (24) 
1668-92 1673-1727 1676-1749 1685-1740 1685-1750 

J. Gtinther (33) J. Ernst (34) 
1703-56 1722-77 

J. Gottfried Bernhard (47) 

the Genealogy mentions four grandsons of the Erfurt town musician, 
Johann Bach. One of them, Johann Jakob, was assistant to Ambrosius 
Bach, in whose house he died at Eisenach aged 24. Jakob's younger 
brother, Johann Christoph (17), born in 1673, also seems to have stayed 
with the hospitable Ambrosius for a short time after his father's death, for 
the register of the Eisenach Latin school mentions him as a pupil in 1683- 
1684. How he obtained his further education is not known; but he must 
have been ambitious and very able, since the orphaned youth, besides 
receiving the musical training traditional in the family, managed to study 
Theology. Thanks to these double qualifications he found a position as 
Cantor in a village near Erfurt, exchanging it in 1698 for a similar one in 
Gehren, where an uncle, the late Johann Michael (cf. p. 38), had been 
very successful as an organist and town clerk. Unfortunately Johann 
Christoph's life in the little community was very different from that of 
his kinsman. Poor and very irregular payments together with attacks 
from a hostile superior (who accused the Cantor, for instance, of using 
dance motives in his church music 1 ) made up the tenor of his existence. 

1 Cf. Wiegand, 'Die Arnstadter Bache,' in 'J- S. Bach und seine Verwandten in 
Arnstadt,' 1950. 

G 97 


Since the stubbornness and belligerence of the Bachs were very strongly- 
developed in the Gehren Cantor, he fought back violently, with the result 
that his existence was a very unhappy one. Yet he stayed on at Gehren for 
twenty-nine years, until 1727 when he was felled by a sudden illness. His 
three sons, however, were anxious to leave the uncongenial town. Two 
served as musicians in Sondershausen, where they died at an early age; 
the third, Johann Giinther (33), whom Sebastian praised as a good tenor, 
became a schoolmaster in Erfurt, working at the same time with the town 

Much more satisfactory were the careers of two other grandsons of 
Johann, children of Johann Egidius. The younger one, another Johann 
Christoph (19), born in the same year as Sebastian, followed his father as 
director of the Erfurt town musicians, and held the position up to his 
death in 1740. The elder one, Johann Bernhard (18), born 1676, must have 
been an eminent organist; for after he had served at Erfurt's Kaufmanns- 
kirche his reputation was so high that he was called away from Thuringia 
to the city of Magdeburg. However, he returned to his native state when, 
on the death of the great Johann Christoph Bach, the position as 
Eisenach's organist was offered him. Working at the fine organ, re- 
modelled according to his predecessor's instructions, must have proved 
satisfactory to Johann Bernhard; for, following the old-established Bach 
pattern, he remained at Eisenach until he died in 1749. For the greater part 
of this period he seems to have lived in the same house; thus being spared 
the problems from which Johann Christoph had suffered so much. Shortly 
after his arrival in Eisenach, the general musical activities in the town 
were greatly improved by the efforts of two outstanding conductors who 
served there in succession, the eminent virtuoso, Pantaleon Hebenstreit, 
and the energetic and highly productive Philipp Telemann. A contem- 
porary writer, Johann Limberg, described the local musical conditions as 
follows: 1 'On this [new] organ every Sunday graceful music is performed 
in the honour of the Lord, often with kettledrums and trumpets. The 
Council has engaged for this purpose Mr. J. Konrad Geisthirte as Cantor, 
Mr. J. Bernhard Bach as organist and Mr. J. Heinrich Halle [the successor 
of J. Ambrosius Bach] as musicus instrumentalis. All three are renowned 
and well experienced in their art. Recently the church music has been 
really perfected, as the newly appointed court musicians, who are all out- 
standing, have been commanded to the organ loft so as to be heard for 
the honour of God and the edification of the congregation. This whole 
body of musicians is under the direction of Mr. Telemann, a man of pro- 

1 Cf. 'Das im Jahre 1708 lebende und schwebende Eisenach,' 1709. 


found knowledge and eminent invention.' Telemann stayed for four years 
only, and after his departure the music-loving Duke Johann Wilhelm 
may have appreciated all the more the talent of his organist, who also 
supplied him with delightful orchestral suites. Bernhard's salary was 
eventually almost doubled and remained undiminished even when, in 
1741, Eisenach became part of the principality of Weimar and its ducal 
band was dismissed. 

There was a great friendship between Bernhard and Sebastian, who 
were related both on their fathers' and on their mothers' sides. 1 Bernhard 
was the godfather of Sebastian's third son, Johann Gottfried Bernhard, 
while Sebastian acted in the same capacity for the Eisenach organist's 
eldest son, Johann Ernst, whose teacher he subsequently became. But 
above all Sebastian thought very highly of Bernhard's creative work. 


Not many of Bernhard's compositions have survived. They consist 
exclusively of smaller works for the keyboard instruments and suites for 
string orchestra. Their preservation is mainly due to two great kinsmen of 
his: the organ chorales were copied by Bernhard's pupil, the outstanding 
organist and lexicographer, Johann Gottfried Walther (whose mother 
was a Lammerhirt too), while the orchestral suites were apparently per- 
formed by the Thomas Cantor, who personally wrote out parts for them. 

It is significant that Luther's powerful and yet so simple chorale Wir 
glauben all' an einen Gott (We believe all in but one God) particularly 
appealed to Bernhard Bach. He used it in three different organ preludes 
which all express the same deep and unquestioning faith. Straightforward- 
ness and simplicity mingled with richly flowing imagination are also 
apparent in his organ works. 2 

There are various types of chorale prelude in his output. The simplest 
kind is to be found in two-part arrangements (bicinia), in which one 
quickly moving part accompanies the chorale melody presented in long 
notes. But even in this unpretentious form Bernhard attempts to portray 
the mood of the text in the counter-melody. Moreover he occasionally 
alternates the cantus firmus between the soprano and bass parts, and the 

1 Bernhard's grandmother, Hedwig Lammerhirt, was a half-sister of Sebastian's 
mother, Elisabeth Lammerhirt. 

2 They are equally revealed in his very characteristic handwriting. Cf. H. Kiihn, 
'Vier Organisten Eisenachs aus Bachischem Geschlecht,' in 'Aus Luthers lieber Stadt,' 1935. 



individual sections start with melodic references to the following chorale 
line. Among his three-part preludes, Vom Himmel hoch (From heaven 
above to earth I come) is particularly interesting. Here the cantus firmus 
is given to a middle part, while the highest voice offers delightful free 
passages expressing Christmas cheer and portraying the fluttering of 
angels' wings. 1 

Bernhard also cultivated the Chorale Partita, a form of composition 
based on a chorale tune, which is stated at the beginning in simple harmon- 
ization, and then followed by a number of variations or 'Partitas' corre- 
sponding to the number of verses in the chorale text. Bernhard's four 
variations on the hymn Du Friedefiirst, Herr Jesu Christ (Thou Prince of 
Peace) surround the melody with expressive ornamentations, thus 
achieving a warm sonority and appealing emotional fervour. 

The composer's skill in handling the variation form is equally dis- 
played in his organ 2 Chaconne in B flat. The 20 variations on a vigorous 
8-measure subject present the forceful harmonic sequence in patterns of 
quickly changing rhythm and melody. Within the narrow limitations of 
this form the composer succeeds in exhibiting a series of highly engaging 

Among his best works for keyboard instruments are two fugues in D 
and F, into which Bernhard, stimulated by the unlimited possibilities of 
the well-tempered system, introduced chromatic progressions and 
sequences of unusual boldness {Ex. 18). It is moreover interesting to note 

that the composer, like his cousin Sebastian, favoured the concertante 
principle in the episodes connecting the thematic developments of his 

1 Cf. Frotscher, /.c, I, p. 586. 

2 The great distance between the three parts in variation VII, which makes a per- 
formance without pedals impossible, shows that the composition usually referred to as a 
work for the clavier was probably meant for the organ. 



fugues. This is by no means the only point of contact between the key- 
board works of the two kinsmen. In particular, Sebastian's early Partitas 
show the influence of Bernhard's style. 1 

Even more conspicuous is the artistic affinity between the two com- 
posers' orchestral suites. Each of them wrote four suites, of which Bern- 
hard's in g for solo violin and strings and Sebastian's in b for solo flute 
and strings are closely related. The Overtures in both works use the 
concerto fugue, and not only their themes, 2 but even the figurations show 
a certain resemblance. Each suite has among its dances a vigorous move- 
ment entitled Rondeau, a heading not too frequently found in orchestral 
suites of this period. But apart from this comparison Bernhard's suite is, 
in its own right, a work of fine craftsmanship and vivid inspiration. In 
addition to the two movements mentioned, it includes a lofty Air, in 
which the orchestra supports a gentle cantilena of the solo violin, a 
fascinating Fantaisie in da capo form, and a witty Passepied. 

His other three works of this kind, although not quite on the same 
level as the Suite in g, contain many delightful movements. These com- 
positions are for strings only without any solo instrument. The solidly 
constructed Overtures are always most remarkable; but the amusing 
Tempete (a naive description of a storm) concluding the Suite in G, the 
sparkling Les Plaisirs z in the Suite in e, the pompous Marche and the 
charming 3 Caprices with their attractive imitations (Ex. 19) in that in 

D, would also justify a revival of the works they adorn. Not many com- 
posers of the time wrote orchestral suites of equal significance and 
technical mastery. 

1 The bass in the first variation of Sei gegriisset Jesu giitig, for instance, is surprisingly- 
similar to that in Bernhard's bicinium, Jesus, Jesus, nichts als Jesus. 

2 The theme in Bernhard's Overture must have impressed Sebastian particularly, 
since he quoted it almost literally in the Andante of his first Sonata for flute and harpsichord. 

3 The title Les Plaisirs for a Bourree was also used by Telemann in his Suite in a. 
Telemann's work contains moreover a Rejouissance, a title employed by Sebastian in his 
Suite in D. 


Johannes (2) 


Christoph (5) 



Joh. Ambrosius (1 1) 


Joh. Sebastian (24) 

Veit (1) 

Lips (3) 








I I I 

Joh. Ludwig Nikolaus Ephraim Georg Michael 

1677-1731 1690-1760 1701-1777 

Joh. Christian 

the 1 8th century witnessed the formation of an important Bach centre 
at the court of Meiningen. According to family tradition, the branch was 
descended from Lips Bach, a brother of Johannes, the Spielmann (cf. p. 
11), but the further development of this branch is shrouded in darkness 
and family legends. We reach firm ground only in the later part of the 17th 
century with the person of Jakob Bach, born in 165 5, 1 in the Thuringian 
village of Wolfsbehringen. Our knowledge of this founder of a line of 
eminent artists — a line, incidentally, which has continued up to the present 
day — is comparatively large, for by a lucky chance a curriculum vitae 
which Jakob had to write for a school Superintendent has been preserved. 2 
Jakob's father, Wendel (1619-82), seems to have been a simple farmer 3 
with very little money but with much ambition for his son. In 1669, at 
the age of 14, Jakob was sent to the Eisenach Latin school, an institution 

1 Jakob Bach himself mentions 1654 as the year of his birth; Spitta and Terry give it 
as 1655, which seems to be the correct date according to the entry in the register of deaths. 

2 It is to be found in the archives of the Landeskirchenrat der Thiiringer evangelischen 
Kirche at Eisenach. 

3 That is how Rollberg interprets the description 'Innwohner,' which Jakob Bach 
uses. Cf. his article in 'Thiiringer Fahnlein,' H. 8, 1933. 

jakob's life 103 

which was to be attended later by many of his kinsmen. Eisenach, how- 
ever, did not prove to be a good choice. At that time the hospitable 
Johann Ambrosius Bach had not yet come to the city, and Johann 
Christoph, the great organist, was just trying to get established and to 
provide for his young wife and first son. Probably Jakob could not get 
much support from him and was unable to make ends meet; whatever the 
cause, the school register reports that Jakob left school in 1671 after being 
found guilty of a theft. He transferred to a similar school in Gotha, where 
he apparently received good musical instruction 1 and found conditions so 
much to his liking that many years later he sent his own son, Johann 
Ludwig, to the same institute. Whilst in Gotha, he fell in love with 
Anna Martha Schmidt, daughter of a hatmaker. Neither of the young 
people was more than 18 years old when they ran away from Gotha and 
married. After a short period of bliss, they found they had nothing to live 
on. So young Martha returned to her parents, while Jakob attempted to 
conclude his studies in the city of Miihlhausen (thus being the first Bach 
to stay in this town, which was to harbour three other kinsmen, among 
them the greatest of them all). Unfortunately the free lodging on which 
he was counting did not materialize, and after a stay of six months Jakob's 
financial worries became so acute that he decided to become a musketeer 
in the army of the Prince of Eisenach, which was just taking part in the 
Emperor's war against France. But army life did not suit Jakob either, and 
after a year he managed to buy himself out; he then tried to become a 
schoolmaster. At last luck was with him. When a position in the 
Thuringian village of Thai became vacant, the youth of 21 applied for it, 
and passed the examination by the Consistory, as well as the test in organ 
playing and singing before the community, with such good results that 
he was appointed. Now his beloved wife could join him at last. The 
product of their blissful reunion was Jakob's first son, the handsome and 
highly gifted Johann Ludwig. Henceforth Jakob's life was spent as a 
teacher and Cantor, and his inherent restlessness manifested itself merely in 
a not infrequent change of positions which took him subsequently to the 
cities of Steinbach, Wasungen, and Ruhla. That he was everywhere 
considered a most respectable member of the community is apparent in 
the highly placed godparents whom he was able to provide for his 
numerous children. His married life was not lacking in variety. He buried 
not only his beloved Martha, but two other wives. At the age of 61 he 

1 That the Gotha school provided satisfactory training in music is proved by the case 
of Georg Bohm, who attended it a few years later. As organist at Liineburg, Bohm was 
to exercise a deep influence on young Sebastian Bach. 


entered matrimony for the fourth time, and still had two offspring before 
he died in 171 8. The musical talent he handed on must have been con- 
siderable, for each of his first two marriages produced a highly gifted 
musician. 1 

Jakob's eldest son, Johann Ludwig, was born on February 4, 1677, at 
Thai, and received a good education. He attended the Gotha Gymnasium 
from 1688 to 1693 and subsequently studied Theology. 2 His first position 
was, like that of his father's, a double one; he worked, as he described it 
himself, in the 'school and church' of Salzungen. When he was 22 he 
was called to Meiningen, the capital of a newly established little Princi- 
pality of Saxe-Meiningen, which arose from the division of the estate of 
Prince Ernst ('the Pious') of Gotha among his seven sons. The third son, 
Bernhard, was allotted Meiningen with a number of neighbouring towns 
and villages; he took possession in 1680. Prince Bernhard I was the 
typical pocket-size sovereign of the time, both in his good and bad aspects. 
He was anxious to promote the material and spiritual welfare of his 
subjects. Under his rule agriculture, fruit-growing, and mining were im- 
proved, an orphanage was built, attempts were made to provide for the 
poor of the district, an excellent Latin school was established, and new 
churches were built. A very religious sovereign, he wrote down from 
memory all the sermons he heard — and sermons at that time lasted much 
longer than in our days! — leaving behind 14 folios of transcripts. He had 
a Communion service printed, the prayers for which he collected himself. 
On the other hand, he believed firmly in witchcraft, and he spent huge 
sums on alchemistic experiments in the hope that the gold so produced 
would solve his increasing financial embarrassments once and for all. 
When the gold failed to materialize, he chose the easier expedient of 
trading his subjects to the Doge of Venice to serve in the fight against the 
Turks, receiving 36 thalers for each soldier. This, of course, brought only 
temporary relief. Indeed, the state finances were at so low a level that the 
sovereign's own son and heir, Ernst Ludwig, published anonymously a 
pamphlet advising the Prince how to save Meiningen from bankruptcy. 

But whatever may have been Bernhard I's faults, he certainly showed 
wisdom in securing young Bach for his court. Perhaps he was first 
attracted by Johann Ludwig's unusual good looks, but it did not take him 
long to see that he had acquired an extremely capable servant. In 1703 

1 Georg Michael Bach (1703-71), an offspring of Jakob's third marriage, was also a 
musician, and worked as Cantor at St. Ulrich, Halle. His son, Christian (1743-1814), later 
known as the 'Clavier-Bach,' was Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's pupil. 

2 He mentions this fact in a petition he made in 1725. Cf. Miihlfeld, 'Die herzogliche 
Hofkapelle in Meiningen,' Meiningen, 19 10. 


Johann Ludwig was entrusted with two different spheres of work, being 
appointed court Cantor and master of the ducal pages. His duties were 
manifold indeed: holding prayer meetings with the pages and certain 
court servants every morning and evening; keeping careful check on 
attendances at these meetings according to lists given him, and notifying 
the court marshal or chaplain of any absentees; teaching the young noble- 
men first of all the catechism, then, in addition, other far less important 
subjects such as writing, arithmetic, and history; working out the pages' 
schedule for lessons and sports; watching his charges day and night; 
keeping the church books; and, finally, the occupation which really 
mattered to him, supervising the church music. 1 The position certainly 
had both advantages and drawbacks. The remuneration was fairly satis- 
factory, since it provided free board and lodging at court as well as a 
sizable stipend in cash. 2 On the other hand, Ludwig had almost as little 
freedom as his young charges; he could not absent himself even for an 
evening without permission from the court marshal. Moreover his 
various duties did not leave sufficient scope for the development of his 
musical gifts. Perhaps these were the reasons why he attempted a change. 
On October 26, 1706, 3 his father wrote a petition on his behalf to Eisenach 
to secure the position of Cantor which had become vacant through the 
death of Ambrosius Bach's friend, Andreas Christian Dedekind. It is 
significant that the applicant stressed his son's interest in all musical 
duties, adding, however, that the teaching work might better be entrusted 
to a substitute to be paid by Johann Ludwig. Jakob's attempt failed, but 
fortunately conditions changed in Meiningen itself. Prince Bernhard I 
died in April 1706, and his successor, Prince Ernst Ludwig, on recognizing 
the Cantor's special gifts, relieved him in 171 1 of all his previous duties, 
entrusting him instead with the direction of the enlarged court orchestra, 
which in past years had been conducted by Georg Kaspar Schiirmann, a 
very prolific opera composer. About that time Johann Ludwig married a 
daughter of the architect, Samuel Rust, 4 and as his presence at the castle 
for the supervision of the pages was no longer required, he was allowed 
to set up a household of his own. In lieu of board and lodging he was 
granted a contribution of 16 thalers to the rent, and a certain yearly 

1 The instructions published in full by Miihlfeld, I.e., only mention that 'he has to sing 
the chorale at the service on Sundays and during the week/ but as the document addressed 
Bach as court Cantor, it may be assumed that he had to undertake all the musical duties 
of a Cantor. 

2 A yearly amount of 99 fl. 12 gr. 

3 Cf. Superint. Archiv Eisenach: B 25, B 2, p. 20. 

4 Rust built Meiningen's new castle, the Elisabethenburg. 


amount of rye, wheat, barley, carp, game, and candles. Apart from instruc- 
tion in painting which he gave to the Princes, 1 his time was now devoted 
to music and he produced a great number of compositions, in addition to 
being kept busy as a performer. His orchestra paid regular visits to neigh- 
bouring courts, thus starting a tradition which was in the 19th century to 
come to glorious life again in the famous Meiningen orchestra tours under 
von Biilow and Brahms. Even when the musicians were at home, per- 
formances took place once, and sometimes twice, a day. Johann Ludwig 
used to accompany on the harpsichord the visiting artists who often 
appeared on these occasions; or he performed himself on the violin. What 
part music played in celebrations at the Meiningen court is apparent in 
the instructions issued for the birthday of a Prince, which read as follows: 

Monday at 4 a.m. (!). Intrada with trumpets and kettledrums. 

Monday at 7 a.m. The usual morning music by the whole band. 

Monday at 9.30 a.m. Church service, Te Deum with trumpets and ketdedrums, 3 
salutes by cannon. 

At dinner-music improper tuning to be avoided, an Overture to be played first; the 
text of the Cantata to be handed to Serenissimo; after the Cantata ketdedrums and 
trumpets. At the supper-table strong instrumental music with trumpets and ketde- 
drums. Large orchestra for the following ball. 

Posterity does not view Prince Ernst Ludwig in too pleasant a light. 
Apparently it did not occur to the new sovereign that the sound economic 
advice he had given his father should be applied to his own way of life. 
He was just as extravagant, spending excessively large sums on the 
building of new castles and churches. The luxuries enjoyed at his court 
would have been appropriate for a much more important sovereign, and 
this was especially true when he brought to Meiningen as his second wife 
a daughter of the 'Great Elector' of Brandenburg; on that occasion one 
large-scale festivity followed another. The Prince was not only a prodigal 
spender, he was ruthless in his dealings with other members of the family 
who had claims on the estate, and he continually waged war against the 
neighbouring small principalities, with the object of increasing his posses- 
sions. But all this probably did not seriously concern his music director, 
for to Johann Ludwig the fact that his Prince was a passionate lover of the 
Muses was the most important thing. The sovereign wrote poetry him- 
self, mostly of a religious nature, and occasionally set it to music; as for 
instance, when he composed the funeral music for his own brother. His 
music director could always count on the Prince's support and under- 
standing, and thus Johann Ludwig was able fully to develop his great 
creative gifts. When the Prince died in 1724, mainly from the shock he 
1 Cf. H. LofBer, 'Bache bei Sebastian Bach,' BJ, 1949-50. 


suffered on the sudden death of his beloved eldest son, Johann Ludwig 
Bach mourned him deeply. He composed a funeral cantata based on verses 
the Prince had written long before for a similar occasion. 1 This cantata 
once more expressed the close artistic relations that had existed between 
the Prince and his music director. 

In the following years confusion reigned in Meiningen. As the sur- 
viving sons of the deceased potentate were too young, two uncles who 
were on the worst possible terms with each other ruled as guardians. So 
much energy was expended in the pursuit of their quarrels that the Muses 
were neglected. It seems, however, that one of the guardians, Prince 
Anton Ulrich, showed some sympathy for the composer. At all events, 
Johann Ludwig mustered up enough courage to write a petition to the 
Prince entreating him to have the emoluments of which he had been 
deprived for many years paid to him again. It may be assumed that the 
Prince granted the musician's wish; for in 1728, when Anton Ulrich 
returned from a long visit to Vienna, Johann Ludwig celebrated this event 
in a special Festival Cantata. Three years later the composer died, and he 
was buried on May 1, 173 1. 2 

Before discussing Johann Ludwig's contributions to the music of his 
time, mention should be made of his younger brother, who also served 
the princely family of Saxe-Meiningen throughout his life. Nikolaus 
Ephraim Bach was born on November 26, 1690, at Wasungen. At the 
time when he was ready for musical training, Johann Ludwig was settled 
at the Meiningen court, and it seems likely that Ephraim stayed there with 
him as his pupil. The Prince's half-sister, Elisabeth Ernestine Antoinette, 
interested herself in the promising youth, who shared her love for music 
and painting; and when she was called as Abbess to the important 
Protestant convent of Gandersheim, 3 she took Nikolaus Ephraim, then 
18 years old, with her. The young musician certainly had quite an unusual 
patroness to work under. The Princess was famous all over Europe for 
her beauty and wit, and two of the greatest monarchs, the German 
Emperor Charles VI, and the French King Louis XIV, had asked for her 

1 It is typical of the time that Prince Ernst Ludwig quite early in his life selected a 
special Psalm and wrote a poem for his own funeral; he also prepared a funeral sermon for 
himself, which was found in his desk after his death. 

2 This date was recendy ascertained by the Meiningen church authorities from their 
registers of deaths. The year 1741 given by Spitta and Terry for Ludwig's death is therefore 

3 This Nunnery, founded in the 9th century by the Princes of Saxony, had become 
Lutheran in 1586 and was used now as a place of retreat and contemplation for high-born 
Protestant spinsters. It retained its political independence, being under the jurisdiction of 
the Emperor only, had its own vote in assemblies, and possessed considerable property. 


hand, the former for his son, the latter for his grandson. The paramount 
condition of both offers was that she should enter the Catholic Church; 
this the deeply religious Princess was unwilling to do, so, in order not to 
give offence to such important suitors, she vowed never to marry but to 
devote her life to Christ; whereupon the Emperor appointed her Abbess 
of Gandersheim, a position she was to hold for fifty-three years. It was by 
no means an easy-going mistress that Ephraim had to serve throughout 
his life. She quickly found out that young Bach was extremely capable in 
many ways, and she gave him ample opportunities for using his various 
gifts. Several documents preserved in the Brunswick Archives of Wolfen- 
biittel give us some conception of the wide range of his appointments. 
Not only was he court musician and organist, providing compositions of 
his own when needed, he was also in charge of the Abbess's large art 
collection and had moreover to instruct the court employees in painting. 
As he was also most efficient in practical matters, he became master of the 
princely cellars, as well as auditor of the Abbess's accounts, rising even- 
tually to the position of intendant in charge of his mistress's entire house- 
hold. 1 How highly Nikolaus Ephraim was esteemed is revealed by the im- 
posing array of princes and princesses, including the Abbess, who stood 
godfather and godmother to his two children, the offspring of a second 
marriage which the robust court intendant, following the example of his 
father, contracted at the age of 65. 2 In spite of all the work piled on him, 
Nikolaus Ephraim's life seems to have been easier than that of his elder 
brother. From his 18th year to his death at the age of 70 he worked 
under the same patroness, enjoying her full trust and appreciation. No 
composition by Ephraim has come to light so far, and we are therefore 
unable to form an idea of his musical abilities. What attracts our interest 
apart from his versatility is his apparent leaning towards the fine arts 
which was to assume large proportions in Ephraim's nephew and grand- 
nephew, the descendants of Johann Ludwig Bach. 


If the number of scores that Johann Sebastian copied from the works 
of any composer can be considered as an indication of the esteem in which 
he held him, Ludwig Bach ranked particularly high in his kinsman's 

1 When the wide range of his duties forced him to give up some of his musical work, 
another kinsman became Cantor in 1717. This was Tobias Friedrich, son of Sebastian's 
eldest brother and teacher, Johann Christoph, of Ohrdruf. 

2 No descendants from the first marriage are known. 


favour. The Thomas Cantor made careful copies of 18 German church 
cantatas by his Meiningen cousin, producing a full score and set of parts 
for each of them. 1 These copies offer a good example of the kind of score 
the Leipzig music director prepared for his own practical use. The music, 
although apparently written in great haste, is clearly legible, whereas the 
text is often so much abbreviated that deciphering proves difficult. Sebas- 
tian observed the greatest economy in his handling of the expensive music 
paper, and used every available bit of space to the utmost. 2 It was in 
Leipzig that he performed these 'concertos' (he gave them the name then 
in general use which he employed for his own cantatas); for the parts 
contain a figured bass transposed a whole tone down, a sure sign that it 
was intended for the organ of St. Thomas' or St. Nicholas' (cf. p. 207). 
The composer's appreciation of this music was shared by his son, Philipp 
Emanuel, who praised it to an unknown correspondent in these words: 
'The elaboration is diligent throughout, the counterpoint especially is 
flawless; the choruses are exceptional.' 

Ludwig's cantatas well deserved his kinsmen's interest, and it is to be 
regretted that none of them has so far been printed. It is vigorous music, 
full of strength and inspiration, rich in variety, and imbued with a 
sensuous pleasure in tonal beauty. The treatment of the voices, particu- 
larly in the solo numbers, reveals a composer who has studied Italian 
models (for which the performances at the Meiningen court offered ample 
opportunities). The texts are based on the Bible, which is sometimes 
literally quoted, but more often, according to prevailing fashion, freely 
paraphrased. Prince Ernst Ludwig of Meiningen may have been respon- 
sible for at least part of these 'madrigalian sections.' Each of the cantatas 
is destined for a special event of the church year, but their texts are of 
a general character; which, as Emanuel points out, permits their use 
at almost any time. 

1 This information was given by Philipp Emanuel Bach to a prospective buyer in a 
letter preserved in the Berlin Library. 17 of these cantatas are listed in BG, 41, Appendix. 
The 1 8th was obviously the Trauermusik for Prince Ernst Ludwig of Meiningen. Not all of 
these autographs of Sebastian's are available to-day. 12 cantatas exist in full score, others 
in parts only. The score we have of the Trauermusik is not in Sebastian's hand, nor does it 
seem to be the one Emanuel had in his possession. The MSS. of Johann Ludwig's music 
are to-day to be found in the libraries of Berlin, Marburg, and Tubingen, which kindly 
supplied the author of this book with photographic reproductions. 

2 In the cantata Gott 1st unser Zuversicht Sebastian fills about three-quarters of each 
of the first three pages of the manuscript with the opening chorus. The remaining quarter of 
each page would have been too small to accommodate the 8 lines of this chorus; accordingly 
he filled it with the 5 lines of an aria, which is actually the third number of the composition, 
being separated from the chorus by a secco recitative (cf. 111. XI). 


The majority of the cantatas are scored only for the traditional string 
and organ accompaniment, also used by the older members of the Bach 
family. In some cases oboes are added; in one cantata there are flutes as 
well as oboes, in another two corni di silva (a literal translation of the Ger- 
man term JValdhorn=French horn) and an oboe; while the whole of the 
resources at his disposal are employed only in his Funeral Music (cf. p. 
107). With his small instrumental body the composer achieves surprising 
effects of colour; in particular he gives his favourite, the violin, ample 
opportunities for brilliant display. How successfully he blends vocal and 
instrumental timbres is shown by a beautiful duet between violin and 
soprano in the cantata Ich aber ging (Though I went). Of equal charm is an 
aria in Ich will meinen Geist (I shall relinquish my spirit), where a solo 
soprano alternates with the tone of horns, oboe, and strings. It is interest- 
ing to note (whether this be the work of the composer or the 'copyist') 
that both score and parts contain many indications regarding changes of 
tempo and expression as well as the directions 'solo' and 'tutti.' 

The longer cantatas (which are occasionally divided into two sections) 
begin with a brief full chorus displaying a rich polyphonic texture; others 
have as their initial number a duet or a simple arioso by one of the solo 
voices. A real introductory number for instruments only is nowhere to 
be found, although a few measures by the orchestra usually precede the 
entrance of the voices. Ludwig was particularly addicted to the repetition 
of these instrumental measures as an introduction or postlude to the last 
piece, thus giving firmer cohesion to his works. The first number is 
followed by a free succession of secco recitatives, arias (mostly in da capo 
form), and duets. Each cantata is concluded by a large chorus, usually 
consisting of three sections: a short and powerful harmonic opening, a 
polyphonic middle part, and the final chorale which is intoned by the 
singers in plain chords, while the briskly moving instruments of the 
orchestra provide a vigorous accompaniment. 

The emotional content of the text is vividly reflected in the music. In 
the cantata Ja, mir hastu Arbeit gemacht (Ye caused Me pain), Christ's 
suffering is poignantly represented in the sigh motives which dominate 
both the introductory arioso and the final chorus. On the other hand, in 
Wie lieblich sind aufden Bergen (How beautiful upon the mountains), the 
atmosphere of bliss and remoteness from human strife is charmingly 
expressed in a sort of round dance. The composer never misses an oppor- 
tunity for dramatic changes. In Ich aber ging (Though I went) ponderous 
chromatic sequences, inspired by the words 'lying in thy blood,' are inter- 
rupted by vigorous and joyful coloraturas describing the text 'thou shalt 


live.' In the magnificent Mache dich auff, werde Licht (Arise and let there 



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be light), an introduction of Handelian vigour (Ex. 20) and brilliant 
melismata of the solo voice are suddenly replaced by an adagio at the 

Ix SI 



He-mx S7'e . Tie 

denn. sic . he Tin . sitr.nis, Fin . sier.m's 

words 'for, lo, darkness covers the earth' (Ex. 21). The effective change 
in tempo is enhanced by the simultaneous harmonic descent from a to g. 


The cantata Gott ist wiser Zuversicht (In God is our trust) is built entirely 


on the contrast between the uproar of the elements, symbolizing human 
sin, and the Lord's victory over the storm's fury. It reaches its climax in 
a sort of operatic scene; the violins express the violent motion of the 
waves, until Jesus (bass) exhorts the dispirited people to muster courage 
and silences the wind and sea {Ex. 22). Little imagination is needed to 
see a connection between this dramatic episode and features of Sebastian's 
Passions. 1 (Cf. also 111. XI.) 

Occasionally the composer's tendency to create dramatic changes is 
detrimental to the proper development of the musical ideas, and creates 
an atmosphere of unrest. In Die mit Thranen s'den (Those who sow in 
tears shall reap in joy), a text well known from Brahms' 'Requiem,' only 
4 measures are allotted to the description of the tears; then the time signa- 
ture changes, the composer prescribes allegro, and gay music illustrates 
the reaping in joy. After 5 measures this second choral section is succeeded 
by a contrasting duet of soprano and tenor on 'they go out and weep.' 
The movement concludes with a repetition of the two initial choral pieces, 
with the result that this comparatively short number consists of no less 
than 5 distinct sections. However, such deficiencies are rare; in most cases 
the changes in style and mood are not so numerous, and have the effect 
of enhancing the work's dramatic vigour and vitality. 

The most attractive features of Ludwig's cantatas are a beautiful 
melodic invention of an Italian nature and his engaging colouristic 
effects. His style is predominantly homophonic; he is more concerned 
with variety than with monumental grandeur, and this gives his cantatas 
a patchwork character far exceeding that in Sebastian's earlier works (cf. 
p. 209). The individual numbers are usually short, and there is often no 
clear demarcation between arioso and aria. The difference between Sebas- 
tian and his Meiningen cousin is particularly obvious in the recitatives, 
which are calm and gentle in Ludwig's cantatas, lacking the vehemence 
and poignancy of those of his kinsman. Everything Ludwig writes, how- 
ever, sounds well and makes the most efficient use of the human voice. 
To achieve full clarity, the solo voices in arias and duets usually take turns 
with individual instruments, while the full orchestra accompanies only the 

A link between Ludwig's cantatas and motets is established by his 

1 It might be mentioned in this connection that in Ja, mir hastu Arbeit gemacht, the 
bass arioso No. 4 depicts the flagellation of Christ with the dotted rhythm used for the 
description of the same situation in the contralto arioso 'O gracious God' of the St. 
Matthew Passion. Likewise in the cantata Und ich will iknen einen einigen Hirten erwecken 
(Lo, I will raise up a shepherd) the tenor arioso No. 4 uses this rhythm to illustrate the 
killing of the sheep by the wolf. 



Funeral Music composed in 1724 on the death of Duke Ernst Ludwig. 
The text is based on Psalm 116, verses 16-19, partly literally quoted, partly 
freely paraphrased. As the composer mentions on the title-page, the 
second part contains verses by the Duke himself. This is the only cantata 
by Ludwig written, like his motets, for two choruses. Each of the four- 
part mixed choruses is accompanied by an individual orchestra. That of 
chorus I consists of strings and harpsichord only; while chorus II uses, in 
the first section, woodwinds, strings, and harpsichord, and in the second, 
woodwinds and harpsichord, to which are added, in the third section, 
three muted trumpets, and timpani. In writing this composition, Ludwig 
exerted himself to the utmost to offer a fitting memorial for his dear 
patron. The composition is not only much longer than any of his other 
cantatas; it exhibits greater dignity and even stronger expressive power. 
Very moving, for instance, is the alternation of a tenor solo with the full 
chorus voicing the longing for the heavenly Jerusalem {Ex. 23). When 



the tired soul finally arrives in Paradise, it is greeted by a Hallelujah, the 
jubilant spirit of which one would hardly expect in a funeral cantata. 

Although this cantata is not preserved in Sebastian's own hand- 
writing, it may be presumed to have been among his collection. 1 The 
double chorus in 12/8 time, Meine Bande sind ^errissen (My bonds are 
broken), concluding the first section of the Funeral Music, may have been 
in Sebastian's mind when he wrote the first chorus of his St. Matthew 

1 Emanuel Bach refers in the aforementioned letter to a cantata using 3 trumpets. 



While Ludwig's cantatas consist of many short and vividly contrasting 
sections, the motets 1 are designed on a large scale. Most of them are long 
and substantial works of a dignified, solemn, and festive character. The 
subjective, almost nervous, style of the cantatas is here replaced by epic 
grandeur. 2 

In all his motets Johann Ludwig displays the feeling for clear and well- 
disposed musical forms that might be expected from a student of Italian 
art. The da capo form is frequently used for large sections or for complete 
motets. Gott sey uns gnadig (God be gracious unto us) is even given such 
spacious dimensions that the composer is unable to manage with ternary 
form. He doubles it, thus producing a kind of rondo form with three 
statements of the main idea. 

The Meiningen master's motets are anything but easy to perform. 
He expects from his singers tremendous coloraturas, a big range, and the 
faculty of hitting difficult intervals. 3 Combined with this is a purity and 
nobility of melodic line usually encountered only in Italian vocal music. 
Two choruses, each consisting of the same mixed quartet of soprano, 
alto, tenor, and bass, are Ludwig's favourite means of expression. Even in 
the three motets which are written for six, nine, and ten voices respec- 
tively, 4 the classical combination of four voices always provides the 
foundation for the tonal structure. 

These motets are predominantly homophonic. Ludwig has an in- 
satiable urge for exploring the possibilities of tone-colour. His two 
choruses, which were apparently posted at a distance from each other, toss 
the musical material over to each other. Sometimes they alternate, then 
again they overlap; echo effects are frequently used, and the scores are 
filled with dynamic signs. Johann Ludwig likes to have groups of high- 
pitched voices interchanging with low-pitched ones, large bodies of 
singers with small ones. In Die richtigfiir sick gewandelt haben (Those who 

1 Like the cantatas, most of the motets remained in manuscript. They are preserved 
mainly in the Berlin Library. Only a single one, Uns ist ein Kind geboren (Unto us a child is 
born) is available in a modern score. The editor, Rudolf Moser, by adding a third chorus 
to the two choruses of Ludwig Bach, introduced a contrast between solo and tutti voices 
which is alien to the original. 

2 An exception is provided by Die richtig fur sich gewandelt haben (Those who 
walked in righteousness) which prescribes no less than io changes of time signature, thus 
creating an atmosphere of resdessness. 

3 The motet Gedenke meiner, mein Gott (Remember me, O my God) repeatedly 
prescribes a descending seventh interval in the soprano, and in the bass a descending octave 
immediately followed by an additional descending fifth. 

4 They are Unser Triibsal (Our light affliction), Gott sey uns gnadig, and Die richtig 
fur\sich gewandelt haben. 


walked in righteousness), a third chorus of two voices only is prescribed 
merely to achieve a contrast of timbre, since of the ten voices in the score 
never more than eight are used at the same time, and frequently as few as 
two or four. 

Even in the comparatively infrequent polyphonic sections, such as the 
eight-part fugue in Uns ist ein Kind geboren (Unto us a child is born), 
harmonic beauty is not neglected. There is a luxuriant richness of tone in 
this music which reminds us of the Catholic Church compositions of a 
Durante or Caldara. 

Johann Ludwig did not follow the custom of the time in using the 
chorale as a cantus firmus in his motets. The interweaving of Biblical text 
and Protestant hymn by which Johann Christoph, Johann Michael, and 
most of all Johann Sebastian, obtained such powerful effects is foreign to 
his style. His motets are based mainly on the Scriptures and it is only near 
the end that he introduces a simply harmonized hymn, often of consider- 
able length and with many stanzas. Only in exceptional cases does he 
approach the cantus firmus technique. In the magnificent Gott sey uns 
gnddig, a bass voice, moving in majestically extended long notes, utters 
the ascending and descending scales of B flat supporting the agitated 
dialogue of the two choruses. The strong effect of this scale, which is 
reiterated twice in the course of the motet, is enhanced by the unbending 
rigidity of a pedal point on the note F, introduced between the two 
entrances of the scale. The text of the motet includes these words: 'The 
Lord make His face shine upon us.' It seems likely that the rows of 
ascending and descending notes symbolize the permanent interrelation 
between heaven and earth as expressed in the story of Jacob's ladder: 

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to 
heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Genesis xxviii, 12). 

In the motet Uns ist ein Kind geboren, based on Isaiah ix, 6, at the 
words 'And the government shall be upon His shoulder' the basses and 
tenors of both choruses introduce in long extended notes a melody {Ex. 
24) which is strongly reminiscent of the Gregorian chant of the Magnificat 

(tertii toni). Later, at the words 'And His name shall be called wonderful, 
counsellor,' a similar tune is sustained by the soprano as if angels' voices 
were intoning it. 



As in his cantatas, so in his motets Ludwig Bach reveals himself as a 
master of expressive power, imbued with dramatic tension. Gedenke 
meiner, mein Gott (Remember me, O my God), begins quietly in g with 
full chords. Gradually the motion increases and with it the excitement, 
until an outcry is heard at the words: 'My God!' {Ex. 25). The third 

ge . den .... Tee 

. 7I#T, 7rc«m 


inversion of the dominant seventh chord which the composer uses here 
was not common at that time. Of equal audacity is the motet Sei nun 
wieder iiifrieden (Return unto thy rest). At the words: Tor Thou hast 
delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears,' the prevalent key of 
G changes suddenly to g to illustrate the word 'death.' Chromatic pro- 
gressions represent the tears, and eventually the section comes to a tired, 
almost exhausted ending on the chord of F sharp. 

The motets deal with happiness and bliss more frequently than with 
pain and suffering; and to describe the former emotions Ludwig Bach 
uses the same type of joyful coloraturas that most composers of his time, 
including Johann Sebastian, employ. He likes to emphasize their effect by 
giving the quickly moving melismata to one group of voices while others 
accompany with massive chords {Ex. 26). Particularly impressive is a 

Treu . de, mt1 . nt, 77iej. ne 

(„2fas isi Tneine Treudd', Motet ) 

passage in Ich will auf den Herren schauen (I will look unto the Lord) 
where, after fast-moving coloratura passages, the soprano and alto 


suddenly stop and with a shout declaim the word 'hear' for six measures, 
while the remainder of the voices with grim energy repeat 'me, me, me' 
(Ex. 27); the realistic vigour of this effect is hard to surpass. 

(Jiear - -- - - -) 

There is no inferior work among the motets of the Meiningen Bach, 
and many, like Gott sey wis gnddig, Ich -will aufden Herren sckauen, Uns ist 
ein Kind geboren, Wir wissen (We know), belong to the best that the 
period produced in this field. The author of this book hopes to present in 
modern editions a selection from Johann Ludwig's church compositions, 1 
a venture that has long been overdue. 

Only a single instrumental composition of Johann Ludwig Bach has 
come to light: an overture, with a following suite of dances, dated 171 5. 
It is written for stringed instruments and continuo, to which a solo oboe 
is occasionally added. The impressive slow section of the overture is 
followed by a gay and energetic fugue based on the theme (Ex. 28). Like 


other compositions by Ludwig Bach it shows in its vigorous, melodious 
and straightforward nature an almost Handelian character. Among the 
dance movements following the overture two 'Airs' are most interesting. 
The first exhibits a kind of trill motive running through the parts from 
the solo oboe to the basses. The second, a gay dance in 6/4 time (for 
which Johann Ludwig had a predilection), is based on the contrast between 
the questioning of a single instrument and the answer of the full chorus. 

1 A Passion from the year 171 3 (cf. Spitta, I.e., I, p. 572) and numerous other works 
by the master have probably been lost. On the other hand, there is little reason to assume 
that the three Masses which were tentatively attributed to Ludwig Bach are really his 
work. The Mass in c (BWV, Anh. 26) is of inferior quality, not in keeping with that of 
Ludwig's other works. The Mass for double chorus in G (BWV, Anh. 167) published in 
1805 as the work of J. Sebastian, seems to be by an Italian composer, perhaps Antonio 
Lotti, as Spitta suggests (I.e., II, p. 509). The Mass in e (BWV, Anh. 166) is by Nicolaus 
Bach (cf. p. 93, footnote 3). 


A merry game develops in which not only the oboe and the violins, but 
also the viola and the basses are entrusted with the sprightly solo. A grace- 
ful minuet, a stately Gavotte, and a brisk Bourree form the rest of the 
movements; they make us deeply regret that we know no other instru- 
mental compositions by this master, who was apparently as competent in 
the treatment of stringed instruments as he was outstanding in his vocal 




Heinrich (6) 

J. Christoph (13) 
1 642- 1 703 

Johannes (2) 

J. Friedrich (29) J. Michael (30) 
1682-1730 1685-? 

Christoph (5) 



J. Christoph (12) J. Ambrosius (11) 

1645-93 i<545-95 

J. Ernst (25) 

J. Christoph (22) J. Jakob (23) J. Nikolaus* J. Sebastian (24) 

1671-1721 1682-1722 (?) 1683-? 1685-1750 

* J. Nikolaus has no number in the Genealogy, as he died at an early age. 

in the northern side-aisle of the Georgenkirche in Eisenach there stands a 
baptismal font erected in the year 1503. This venerable relic, which is still 
intact to-day, 1 has witnessed many significant events through the cen- 
turies, but none more so than the ceremony on March 23, 1685, to which 
the pastor still refers to-day whenever a baby is christened there. On that 
day the town musician Johann Ambrosius Bach had a son baptized under 
the name of Johann Sebastian. Of the two godfathers, one, the town 
musician Sebastian Nagel, came all the way from the city of Gotha; the 

1 It remained intact in spite of the fact that the church itself suffered various injuries 
both outside and inside from air-pressure during bombing raids. According to information 
kindly supplied by Eisenach residents, all the repairs needed to make the beautiful building 
fit for use again were completed by 195 1. 



other, Johann Georg Koch, was a ducal forester in Eisenach. 1 It seems 
deeply symbolical that Sebastian Bach was made a member of the Chris- 
tian community in a church steeped in German tradition and legend. At 
St. George's the saintly Elisabeth was wedded to the Landgrave Louis IV 
of Thuringia, originator of the Tournament of Song in the Wartburg. 
From St. George's pulpit Luther, on May 3, 1521, thundered his sermon 
of defiance after returning from the fateful Reichstag at Worms. But even 
apart from such historical considerations, the church meant much to the 
Eisenach Bachs as the centre of their musical activities. Now, in the 
building in which the greatest of the older Bach generation had been 
serving for the past twenty years, the member of the family who was to 
excel him was being baptized. 

No definite facts are known about Sebastian's early youth, but it 
seems safe to assume that he was taught to play stringed instruments by 
his father, while his uncle, Johann Christoph, started him on the organ. 
When he was 8 years old, he entered the Eisenach Latin school, 2 
attending it at the same time as two of his brothers, Johann Jakob and 
Johann Nikolaus, and two of his cousins, Johann Friedrich (29) (later his 
successor at Miihlhausen) and Johann Michael (30). The pupils usually 
started at the age of 7, and remained in each successive class for two or 
three years, until they were ready for promotion. Sebastian advanced very 
quickly, always holding a place slightly higher than his brother Jakob, 
who was three years the elder. He achieved this excellent progress in spite 
of frequent absences, amounting to 59 school hours in 1694 and 103 hours 
in 1695. It was probably not so much illness as musical activities in the 
school choirs that were responsible for his poor attendance. Educational 
and musical periods often conflicted in the schools at that time, and Sebas- 
tian, r in^spite of his keen interest in scholastic subjects, was naturally 
among those pupils for whom the school choirs were of paramount im- 
portance; he advanced rapidly from the 'Kurrende choir, which sang one- 
part hymns, to the Chorus Symphoniacus performing motets and cantatas. 
Fortunate was the congregation of St. George's to be able to enjoy the 
Sunday music provided by the Bachs, with Johann Christoph releasing 
magnificent sounds on the organ, Ambrosius performing in a masterly 

1 Freyse in 'Eisenacher Dokumente um J. S. Bach' thinks it probable that Ambrosius 
Bach, who also lodged for several years with a forester, was a member of the Schiitiengilde 
(shooting-association), founded in the 13th century, which had St. Sebastian as their 
patron saint. If the assumption is correct, it would prove Ambrosius Bach's high social 
standing in the community. 

2 From 1544 the school was housed in a former Dominican monastery built in 1232. 
In 1707 the institute was raised to the rank of a Gymnasium. 


manner on a stringed instrument, and little Sebastian singing in a lovely, 
pure soprano voice, 1 joined by other relatives, who were all intensely 
musical. And fortunate were the Bach children, who grew up in this 
atmosphere of deep-rooted and natural musicianship ! 

It was only for a brief space of time that Sebastian was granted the 
happiness of so sheltered an existence. He lost his mother when he was 
9 years old, and his father less than a year later. Now the family had to 
help. Both Sebastian and his brother Jakob were admitted to the home of 
their eldest brother, Johann Christoph (22), organist at the little town of 
Ohrdruf situated half-way between Arnstadt and Eisenach. In accepting 
them Johann Christoph followed the Bach tradition of mutual assistance. 
We can imagine, however, that the offer of such hospitality was not easy 
for him. The ties of blood had never been strengthened by a home life 
enjoyed in common, for shortly after the birth of Sebastian, Johann 
Christoph had left his parents in order to study with Pachelbel; so his 
young brothers were really strangers to him. Besides, he had married only 
a few months previously, a child was on the way, and the stipend paid by 
the Ohrdruf Council was an extremely meagre one. 2 It is therefore under- 
standable that the elder of Johann Christoph's two charges, Jakob, after 
attending Ohrdruf 's Latin school for a year, left his brother in order to be 
apprenticed to the Eisenach town musician who had succeeded Ambrosius 
Bach. Sebastian, however, stayed on in Ohrdruf for five years. During 
this time he contributed to the household expenses by earning a not in- 
considerable amount as a singer; 3 but once again such work did not 
prevent the precocious youth from a brilliant career at Ohrdruf 's highly 
renowned Latin school. His promotions followed one another very 
rapidly, and Sebastian was usually the youngest in his class as well as one of 
the highest-placed pupils. He became a senior at 14, the average age of his 
classmates being 17.7 years. In this school, which he attended at the same 
time as his cousin, Johann Ernst (25),* he received a thorough training in 
Latin and, what was important for his subsequent religious attitude, in 
Lutheran orthodoxy. His keen mind permitted him to enjoy the intellec- 

1 Sebastian's 'fine, penetrating voice of great range and high singing culture' is 
mentioned by Forkel, who derived his information from Emanuel Bach. 

2 He received 45 fl. a year plus allowances in rye and wood. In 1696 he was granted 
an increase of 10 fl. after he had refused an offer from Gotha. 

3 The prefect of the chorus was Johann Avenarius, whose cousin, J. Georg Schubler, 
became Sebastian's pupil and publisher. Cf. Giinther Kraft in 'Johann Sebastian Bach in 
Thiiringen,' 1950. 

4 This was the eldest son of Johann Christoph (12) of Arnstadt, twin brother of 
Ambrosius. After the death of Johann Christoph in 1693 the widow sent young Johann 
Ernst to Ohrdruf, where she had relatives. 


tual gymnastics of theological dialectics. This predilection was to develop 
later into a hobby probably unique among composers, that of collecting 
theological books and pamphlets and reading them by way of relaxation 
from creative work. 

Nevertheless, school work could touch no more than the outer fringes 
of his wide-awake mind. What really mattered to Sebastian was the 
thrilling voyage of exploration into the immense domain of music. He 
had the opportunity for storing away a great deal of practical knowledge 
by observing the construction of a new organ at his brother's church. In 
this as in all musical matters Johann Christoph was his mentor, a guide of 
high quality, trained by his father, Ambrosius Bach, and by the great 
organist and composer, Johann Pachelbel. It may be assumed that he was 
artistically on the same high level as so many other Bachs, a conjecture 
borne out by two entries made by his superior, Superintendent Kromeyer. 
When Johann Christoph married, Kromeyer noted in the church register: 
'young, but artistic,' and when the organist died he described him in the 
death-register as 'an artist of the first rank.' 1 According to Forkel, Johann 
Christoph taught Sebastian the clavier; but we can safely assume that he 
also instructed him in other instruments, as well as in the elements of com- 
position. Young Sebastian absorbed all instruction as readily as a sponge 
does water. His thirst for new information was unquenchable, and con- 
tinued so throughout his life. There is the touching story, first reported in 
Mizler's Necrology of how Sebastian stole a volume of music by leading 
clavier composers that his brother had denied him as being too advanced; 
how, lacking candles, he copied it painstakingly by the light of the moon, 
thus seriously injuring his sight; and how he suffered the worst possible 
blow when, after months of toil, he was found out and deprived of the 
copy he had made. If the story in this form is true, it would make Sebas- 
tian's eldest brother appear a singularly unpleasant person. But it may be 
that he normally treated his brother quite decently, and that it was only 
exasperation with the young genius's unceasing battery of questions and a 
sudden jealous awareness of Sebastian's superior gifts that provoked this 
spiteful outburst. That Sebastian was, on the whole, not treated too 
harshly in Ohrdruf is apparent from his subsequent attitude towards his 
relatives there. He dedicated one of his early clavier works to Johann 
Christoph (cf. p. 261), and repaid his elder brother by giving two of the 

1 Cf. Ferdinand Reinhold, 'Die Musik-Bache in Ohrdruf,' 'Ohrdruf Festschrift,' 1950. 

2 The article, which appeared in Mizler's 'Musikalische Bibliothek,' was written by 
Philipp Emanuel Bach and Sebastian's pupil, Johann Friedrich Agricola, and is one of 
our main sources for the details of Sebastian's life. 


latter's sons musical training in his own house. Yet it seemed out of the 
question for him to remain much longer at Ohrdruf. Johann Christoph's 
home was becoming more and more crowded owing to additions to his 
family; while the school on the other hand, unlike other institutions of its 
kind, did not place impecunious students in the houses of rich citizens. 
Nor could Sebastian have recourse to the expedient of joining any other 
member of the family for further training, as had been the practice in 
previous generations. The number of Bach musicians had been sadly 
reduced during the preceding decades; a decline that had provoked Sebas- 
tian's stepmother to declare that the family was dying out. Not only did 
Ambrosius die in the prime of life; the same fate befell his two brothers 
and his cousin, Johann Michael. So Sebastian, by necessity, had to break 
away from family ties. He probably did not mind this overmuch. A zest 
for travelling had suddenly broken out among the young Bachs, whose 
fathers had so steadfastly worked within the narrow confines of Thur- 
ingia. Around the turn of the century J. Nicolaus (27) went to Italy, 
J. Christoph (28), and J. Ernst (25) to Northern Germany, and 
Sebastian's own brother, J. Jakob (23), was, before long, to travel as 
far as Turkey. It is not surprising, therefore, that young Sebastian himself 
began to search eagerly for an opportunity to study in a distant part of 
Germany. 1 

Luck, or fate, would have it that a new Cantor by the name of 
Elias Herda had recently joined the Ohrdruf school Faculty. Although 
a Thuringian himself, Herda had as a student held a scholarship at 
St. Michael's in the city of Liineburg in Northern Germany. He knew 
that good singers were in great demand for the church's exquisite 
Mettenchor, which consisted of 12-15 musicians who took over the 
solos or led the choir of the Ritterakactemie, a school for young noble- 
men attached to St. Michael's whose schedule did not include musical 
training. The choir members, according to the statutes, had to be the 
'offspring of poor people, with nothing to live on, but possessing good 
voices'; in addition to free board and tuition they were entitled to a 
small income. 

As Herda taught music at the Ohrdruf school, Sebastian could not fail 
to hear of his teacher's experiences in Liineburg. The boy, once he learned 
of such a fine opportunity, was most eager to grasp it. The great diffi- 
culties involved in travelling 200 miles without adequate funds did not 
scare him in the least. He felt quite ready to exert his feet to the utmost, 

1 The files of the Ohrdruf school mention concerning Sebastian 'Luneburgum ob 
defectum hospitiorum se contulit die 15 Martii 1700/ 


and to limit his appetite to the scantiest rations, if this could bring him to 
an institution which for long had been a revered centre of choral singing. 
Fortunately, a schoolmate of his, Georg Erdmann, was interested in the 
same project; being a friend, maybe even a relative, of Herda's, from 
whose native village he came, he succeeded in obtaining the Cantor's full 
assistance for himself and Sebastian. Herda wrote to Liineburg, and his 
report on Sebastian must have been enthusiastic indeed; for the answer 
was positive, despite the fact that as a rule St. Michael's only accepted 
younger boys able to serve for a longer period, or youths of 17 or 18, 
whose voices were full-grown. Thus, early in March 1700, two eager 
youths, Bach, not quite 15, and Erdmann, aged 18, set out on the arduous 
trek to Liineburg. They left Ohrdruf just in time, for we see from the 
church registers that soon afterwards a terrible epidemic struck the little 
town. 1 

In April the list of the Liineburg Mettenchor mentions Bach among 
the sopranos as a recipient of a monthly payment of 12 groschen. This 
seems very little, but fortunately it did not constitute his whole income; 
for he was entitled to a share in all the monies earned for singing in the 
streets, performances at weddings, funerals, etc. As, moreover, his domi- 
cile and board as well as a supply of firewood and candles were provided, 
his financial position was certainly not worse than it had been in Ohrdruf. 
As to the educational opportunities, they were ideal for a youth with so 
ravenous a musical appetite. Performing at Liineburg differed in many 
ways from what Sebastian had been used to in Ohrdruf. The church of 
St. Michael itself was of breathtaking loftiness, and the famous High 
altar with its centrepiece of pure gold interspersed with lovely enamels, 
near which the choir had its position, must have impressed young Sebas- 
tian as deeply as it did many of his contemporaries. The music offered was 
worthy of so exquisite a setting, and in its great variety most helpful in 
providing a young musician with a thorough knowledge of contemporary 
and older choral literature. Ever since the first Protestant Cantor had estab- 
lished an imposing music library at St. Michael's in 1555, the tradition had 
been faithfully continued by his successors. The Thuringian Cantor, 
Friedrich Emanuel Praetorius (1623-95), in particular, had done a great 
deal in this respect, with the result that the collection included, besides a 
huge amount of printed music, some 1100 manuscript compositions by 
175 composers, among them even two members of Sebastian's family, 
Heinrich Bach and the great Johann Christoph. Thus the church had huge 
resources on which to draw, and the programmes accordingly included a 

1 Cf. Gunther Kraft, I.e. 


wealth of fine music unknown to Sebastian, but with which he became 
familiar through performing it. 1 Not long after his arrival he lost his 
fine soprano voice. This did not mean dismissal, however, as young 
Joseph Haydn was to experience in a similar position at St. Stephen's 
in Vienna. In Liineburg it was the custom to let the scholarship boys 
continue as best they could as tenors and basses. In Sebastian's case, 
moreover, his various excellent qualifications made him extremely valu- 
able in other respects. It is significant that just in the year 1700 the 
church employed only 3 instrumentalists (against 6 in 1660, and 10 
in 1710), and 15-year-old Sebastian was probably from the outset ad- 
mitted because of his usefulness as a violinist in the orchestra and as 
an organist. 

Added to a very heavy schedule of musical duties was the curriculum 
imposed by the Michaelisschule, a Latin school for non-aristocratic 
youths, where Sebastian studied religion, rhetoric, logic, Latin, and Greek, 
mainly under Rector Johann Biische. Since the teacher was an orthodox 
Lutheran, the religious foundations initiated in Ohrdruf were greatly 
strengthened and were to remain of vital importance to Sebastian through- 
out his life. 

While the scholarship boys had to attend the Michaelisschule, they 
roomed and boarded in the old convent, where the Ritterakademie was 
housed. In some ways this was not too pleasant an arrangement; for the 
young noblemen were apt to treat the poor singers scornfully, and to 
require many a menial service from them. Sebastian, however, who had 
not been exactly spoiled in his brother's house, cannot have minded this 
overmuch; and he was, on the other hand, fully aware of the tremendous 
advantages he derived from living close to these aristocrats. The Academy 
was a centre of French culture. French conversation, indispensable at that 
time to any high-born German, was obligatory between the students; 
and Sebastian with his quick mind became familiar with this language 
which he had no chance to study in his own schools. He attended French 
plays, and, what was more important, he learned a great deal about 
French music. At the academy a pupil of Lully, Thomas de la Selle, 
taught dancing to French tunes, thus introducing the fascinated Sebastian 
into a new world of music. When de la Selle noticed the youth's enthusi- 

1 Gustav Fock in his valuable study 'Der junge Bach in Liineburg,' Hamburg, 1950, 
considers Spitta's and Terry's assumption that Sebastian copied many of the works in this 
collection to be erroneous. He contends that the music was pardy the private property of 
the Cantor, who had bought it from the estate of Praetorius, and that it was probably 
housed in its entirety in the Cantor's rooms, to which a pupil of the school would hardly 
have had admission. 


astic response he decided to take Bach to the city of Celle, to which he 
was attached as court musician. 1 

Celle, residence of the Dukes of Brunswick-Liineburg, was at that 
time ruled by Duke Georg Wilhelm, who, like so many German 
sovereigns with small domains and large ambitions, did everything con- 
ceivable to create a miniature Versailles at his court. His French wife fully 
shared his enthusiasm and between them they achieved a veritable centre 
of Gallic culture in Celle. French Huguenots who had fled from their 
country were sure of hospitality there and enjoyed the French musicians 
and singers, who produced an unending series of performances. The 
Duke could certainly expect a high artistic standard, as he spent huge 
sums (for instance, some 14,000 thalers in 1690) on his music and theatre. 
It is significant that one of the greatest oboists of the time, Johann Ernst 
Galliard, 2 was trained at the Celle court; the Duke paid his teacher, 
Marechal, 100 thalers a year for instructing the promising youth. 

We can well imagine what the visits to Celle must have meant to an 
artist with a mind so wide open to all new experiences. There Sebastian 
became familiar with the idiom and style of Couperin and other key- 
board masters; he heard French instrumental music and listened to French 
organ compositions in the castle's exquisite Renaissance chapel with its 
jewel of a small organ. Various copies made by him 3 testify to the eager- 
ness with which he applied himself to these studies. 

It was a stroke of luck that Sebastian happened to go to Celle at that 
particular time; a few years later, the artistic Duke Georg Wilhelm died, 
the orchestra was dismissed, and the little court ceased to be a centre of 
French music. 

In Ltineburg, besides de la Selle there were other interesting persons 
living in the convent which housed the Academy. In 1701 the excellent 
organ builder, Johann Balthasar Held, stayed there in order to undertake 
repairs to St. Michael's organ. With what interest must Sebastian have 
watched him, and listened to the reports about the outstanding instru- 

1 Fock, I.e., has succeeded in establishing in the person of de la Selle, employed both 
in the Ritterakademie and at Celle, the person most likely to have been responsible for 
Sebastian's admission to the court of Celle, about which the Necrolog reports. None of 
the previous theories sounded very convincing. Pirro assumed that Bach was introduced 
by the court physician, Scott, son-in-law of Liineburg's mayor, Reinbeck; Spitta saw the 
link in the Celle town organist, Brinckhorst, with whom Bach had contact after 1703, 
while Wolffheim pointed to the trumpeter, Jan Pack, in the Duke's service, who might 
have been a kinsman. 

2 Galliard was subsequently court conductor in London, and Handel's predecessor. 

3 E.g. the suites by Nicolas de Grigny and Charles Dieupart, and the former's 
'Livre d'orgue.' 


ments in Liibeck and Hamburg, on which Held had worked ! Young Bach 
was thus able to add further to his store of knowledge regarding the con- 
struction of organs — a field in which he was later to become the greatest 

Perhaps even more important than all these contacts was the one estab- 
lished with Georg Bohm, 1 organist of Liineburg's Johanneskirche. It 
seems indeed a very friendly gesture of Providence that this distinguished 
Thuringian should have settled down in Liineburg in 1698, thus being 
available to young Sebastian when he arrived in the northern town two 
years later. Bohm, born in 1661 in a village near Ohrdruf, naturally had 
various links with the Bachs. He probably attended the very school at 
Ohrdruf that Sebastian had just left; later he went to the Gotha Latin 
school with a kinsman of Sebastian, and he attended the University of 
Jena together with three men, who subsequently became Sebastian's 
teachers at Ohrdruf. Thus it was not difficult for the youth to gain access 
to the great organist and composer. The connection proved most fruitful, 
and Sebastian's early organ works especially clearly show him under the 
spell of his compatriot and teacher. 2 Before he came to Liineburg, Bohm 
had stayed for years in Hamburg, and Sebastian, hearing his reports about 
the great organist, J. A. Reinken, felt irresistibly drawn to this city, in 
order to hear the outstanding artist, then 77 years old. The 30 miles' 
distance and lack of funds were negligible matters once Sebastian's artistic 
curiosity was aroused. He walked over to Hamburg during the summer 
vacation of 170 1, and so great was the wealth of impressions he received 
from the aged organ virtuoso, and from another master of the Northern 
style, Vincenz Lubeck, so fascinating was Hamburg's teeming musical 
life, with the great Reinhard Keiser at the opera house, that he repeated 
the trip more than once. How he managed in Hamburg without starving, 
we do not know. Perhaps he received shelter and a little help from cousin 
Johann Ernst (25), his former classmate at Ohrdruf, who had also gone 
to Hamburg to improve his musical knowledge. 

Thus a variety of circumstances combined to give the young genius 
an abundance of different musical experiences. With passionate eagerness 
he absorbed them all — Reinken's and Lubeck's virtuosity; the Hamburg 

1 The connection with another Liineburg organist, Johann Jakob Low(e), 
conjectured by Spitta and Terry, seems of minor importance only. Low was not really a 
Thuringian, but a Viennese, who called himself 'von Eisenach' because this was his father's 
native town. When Sebastian came to Liineburg, Low was 72 and probably not interested 
in a young singer. 

a Fock, I.e., contends that almost all the organ and clavier works by Bohm which 
have been preserved may be traced back to copies made by Sebastian. 



opera; the French elegant manieres, Bohm's individual language; the old 
choral music — until they all became an integral part of his own person- 
ality. Liineburg, with its peculiar location near two important, and so 
very different, musical centres, was indeed an ideal place for Sebastian's 
musical training. At the same time nobody could have displayed a fiercer 
determination to get hold of, and to exhaust to the uttermost limit, all the 
golden opportunities that were within his grasp. 



(1703- i 708) 

Johannes (2) 

Heinrich (6) 

Christoph (5) 

J. Michael (14) = Cath. Wedemann J. Ambrosius (11) Georg Christoph (10) 





Maria Barbara=J. Sebastian (24) J. Christoph (22) J. Valentin (21) 

1 684- 1 720 



1 669- 1 720 

J. Bernhard (41) J. Lorenz (38) J. Elias (39) 

1700-43 1695-1773 I705-55 

Cath. Dorothea W. Friedemann (45) * C. Ph. Emanuel (46) J. Gottf. Bernhard (47) 
1708-74 1710-84 1714-88 1715-39 

* The twins who died in the year of their birth are not specifically mentioned here. 

By Easter 1702 1 Sebastian had finished his studies at the Michaelu- 
schule and was ready for a University. Attending any such institution with- 

1 The assumption of former biographers that Sebastian stayed at the Latin school in 
Liineburg for three years seems unfounded, cf. Fock, I.e. Sebastian had already started work 
on the last class of the Latin school in Ohrdruf, and in view of his former scholastic progress 
it cannot be assumed that it took him more than three years altogether to master the curri- 
culum of the senior year. What he did until he found a position in 1703, and where he 
lived, is not known. 

xii. Corridor in the Eisenach 'Bach House.' Oil-painting by Paul Bach 

xin. First page of J. Sebastian Bach's Cantata 'Es erhub sich ein Streit ' 

J. SEBASTIAN IN ARNSTADT (1703-1707) 129 

out funds would have presented a big but not insoluble problem to so 
energetic and resourceful a youth. But Sebastian did not seriously con- 
sider studying at a University; he was most eager to start musical work in 
earnest and felt ready for any position that might come his way. In later 
years he may have regretted this decision, as in 18th-century Germany 
attendance at a University made a tremendous difference to a musician's 
standing both socially and economically. For this reason, when it came to 
his own sons, he was anxious to give them a University education, al- 
though there was no doubt in his mind that they would eventually choose 
musical professions. But as a youth of 17 Sebastian was not far-sighted 
enough to adopt such a policy, and there was nobody close enough to him 
to advise him. Where to look for suitable employment was the question 
that now arose. Significantly enough, he did not consider staying in 
Northern Germany, where he had established numerous contacts, any one 
of which might have led to an appointment. For purposes of study and 
artistic improvement this part of Germany had been excellently suited. 
But when it came to settling down, he decided to travel all the 200 miles 
back to Thuringia, where his forebears had tended the musical soil for 
almost two centuries. This he did out of a deeply rooted allegiance to the 
family tradition, and out of longing for contacts with his kinsfolk, a 
longing particularly strong in one who, since the age of 10, had missed 
normal family ties. Apart from this consideration, there were also practical 
reasons in favour of Thuringia. There the very name of Bach was 
honoured and would be enough to secure the beginner a position. The 
family was also sure to lend all the help it could, just as Sebastian was to 
do again and again for other musicians of the clan, and its members were 
often in possession of the necessary inside information regarding a vacancy 
which sometimes spelt the difference between success and failure. 

In 1703, three different organist's posts were due to be filled in 
Thuringia. One was at the Jakobikirche at Sangerhausen, the organist of 
which had died in July 1702. That Sebastian applied is revealed in a letter 
he himself wrote some thirty years later to a Sangerhausen Council 
member. From it we learn that after all the votes had been cast in his 
favour, and the post promised to him, the Lord of the town, a Duke of 
Saxe-Weissenfels, had interceded, as he wanted the position to be filled 
by a more mature musician, Joh. Augustin Kobelius. Naturally the Duke's 
protege was appointed, and Sebastian had to content himself with a 
promise of subsequent favours (a promise he was to redeem successfully 
for one of his sons). 

At Eisenach, also, the town organist's position became vacant through 


the death of Johann Christoph Bach on March 31, 1703. Sebastian must 
have been greatly attracted by this opening in the city of his birth. 
Whether he applied for the position or not, we do not know. At all events 
the post was given to an older and more renowned member of the family, 
Johann Bernhard Bach. A more promising opportunity, however, seemed 
to be materializing in another Bach centre, Arnstadt. There the old church 
of St. Boniface, which in 1581 had been devastated by fire, had been re- 
built some hundred years later and was now once more in use under the 
name of the Neue Kirche. 1 At first it had no organ at all, but eventually 
enough money was collected to start building an instrument, for which 
an organist would be needed before long. Early in 1703 the work was 
nearly completed, and Sebastian's relatives began to exert themselves on 
his behalf. Naturally such endeavours could not be rushed, and in the 
meantime Sebastian had to earn his daily bread. He therefore took the 
first position that presented itself, entering as a 'lackey and violinist' the 
small chamber orchestra 2 of Johann Ernst, a younger and very artistic 
brother of the reigning Duke of Weimar. It looked as though Sebastian 
were following the tradition established by his father and grandfather (the 
latter had also begun his career at Weimar in the double capacity of servant 
and instrumentalist), but he was really only marking time until an organ- 
ist's post, on which he had set his heart, was offered to him. Meanwhile 
he tried to play the organ as much as possible, acting as deputy for 
the aged court organist, Johann Effler. 3 This was not only a valuable 
experience for young Sebastian, it was also helpful for the negotiations in 
Arnstadt. Martin Feldhaus, mayor of the town and kinsman to the Bachs 
as son-in-law of the town clerk Wedemann (cf. p. 35), did not fail to 
make good use of this fact. Indeed, when he succeeded in having the 18- 
year-old Sebastian Bach invited to test the new organ, the receipt he drew 
up on payment of Sebastian's expenses gives the youth the exaggerated 
title of 'Princely Saxonian Court Organist at Weimar,' which was by no 
means in accordance with the facts. 

Testing and playing the new organ, young Sebastian had a chance of 
revealing his stupendous mastery to the Arnstadt citizens, and there is no 
doubt that he swept them off their feet. The usual procedure of inviting 
several candidates for trial performances was dispensed with, and hardly 

1 In 1935 its name was changed to Bach Kirche. 

2 Sebastian probably received the position through the intervention of a member of 
this orchestra, his distant kinsman, David Hoffmann, who was a grandson of the Suhl 
town musician, Christoph Hoffmann (cf. p. 74). 

3 Effler had preceded Michael Bach at Gehren (cf. p. 38) and succeeded Johann Bach 
at Erfurt. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN ARNSTADT (1703-1707) 131 

a month after his appearance, Sebastian received a contract granting him a 
yearly salary of 50 fl., plus 34 fl. for board and lodging. 1 This income was, 
as organists' remunerations went in those days, an excellent one. Heinrich 
Bach, in his 50 years of service, had never received so much, nor was 
Sebastian's eldest brother in Ohrdruf ever to earn what his pupil was 
granted from the outset. It is significant that Sebastian, although anxious 
to work in the same capacity and in the same place as his kinsmen, was, 
even as a youth of 1 8, determined to build up his life on more favourable 
material conditions. Like his great relative, Johann Christoph of Eisenach, 
he felt that the service he rendered entitled him to a fair subsistence and, 
in contrast to Johann Christoph, he had enough self-assurance and driving 
power to convince his superiors of the Tightness of his claims. 

On August 14, 1703, the new organist entered upon his duties. These 
were not extensive; he was to play every Sunday from 8-10 a.m., every 
Monday at an intercessory service, and every Thursday from 7-9 a.m. 
Since his church had not engaged a Cantor, he was supposed, although his 
contract did not specifically mention it, to train a small choir formed of 
pupils from the Latin school for performances during the Sunday service. 
It seemed to be an ideal position for a young musician who needed plenty 
of time for his own improvement and creative work. Arnstadt, a city of 
3800 inhabitants, was also a pleasant place to live in. Its many linden trees 
had earned it the name of the 'Linden-town'; the gardens surrounding its 
castle, with their flower-beds arranged in patterns of beautiful tapestries, 
their grottoes and fountains, were considered outstanding in Germany, 
while the Romanesque Liebfrauenkirche and the Renaissance Town Hall 
belonged to the gems of Thuringian architecture. In the reign of Anton 
Giinther II, 2 various prominent men were assembled at the small court; 
among them, in charge of the numismatic collection, was the learned 
Andreas Morelli, who had formerly been attached to the Paris court. 3 
The court orchestra was directed by Paul Gleitsmann, and as it did not 
consist of court employees only, the conductor would certainly have 
secured the services of so eminent and versatile a musician as Sebastian. 

In addition to the advantages of a good position, there was the 
pleasure of renewing contact with members of his own family. Of the 

1 Sebastian was paid 25 fl. out of the beer taxes, 25 fl. out of the church treasury, 
while the additional 34 fl. were granted by the Hospital 'on command of the Princely 

2 He was elevated to the rank of Prince in 1697, but only used the tide as late as 1707. 

3 From 1689 to 1697 the poet, Salomo Franck, was active there as 'government- 
secretary.' Sebastian was to meet him subsequendy in Weimar and set various cantatas 
of Franck's to music. 


older generation there was only Heinrich Bach's son-in-law and successor, 
Christoph Herthum, and the widow of Ambrosius' twin brother, Johann 
Christoph. But of Sebastian's own age group there were the widow's 
three children, among them Johann Ernst, with whom he shared un- 
forgettable artistic experiences in Hamburg; and there was Maria Barbara, 
youngest daughter of the late organist of Gehren, Johann Michael Bach. 
Both the girl's parents were dead by 1704, and she lived with her uncle, 
Martin Feldhaus, and an aunt, Regina Wedemann, in the house of 'The 
Golden Crown,' where, according to documents preserved, Sebastian also 
boarded for several years. Sebastian and Barbara were of approximately 
the same age; both had been reared in homes where music was considered 
of paramount importance; and both were orphans drifting along without 
strong personal ties. Each could lighten the other's solitude and provide 
in each other's lives the anchorage they both needed. No wonder the two 
young people were drawn irresistibly towards each other, and 'The Golden 
Crown' witnessed the growth of an idyllic love affair. The blood relation- 
ship was considered too remote to present an obstacle, since they were 
second cousins, their grandfathers having been brothers. Sebastian and 
Barbara planned to get married as soon as his position was secure enough 
to enable them to set up a home of their own. Several years were to pass, 
however, before this plan could materialize, years which were not too 
easy for either of them. 

There were certain difficulties involved in Sebastian's work, which in 
course of time assumed larger and larger proportions. The choir he was 
supposed to train was small and of very poor quality. As the 'New 
Church' was the least important in Arnstadt, it was inevitably allotted the 
worst material, while the good singers were employed in the other two 
churches of the town. Not only were Sebastian's charges mediocre 
musicians, they were also an unruly lot, behaving (as the City Council 
complained to the Consistory) in 'a scandalous manner.' To achieve good 
results with such an unco-operative group, a mature man of high authority 
was needed; a musician like Sebastian, who was younger than some of the 
singers, had a difficult position indeed. These complications were further 
aggravated by the young genius' lack of patience with incompetent 
musicians, and by his temper, which, when provoked, could assume 
violent proportions. Thus his intercourse with the recalcitrant group was 
by no means characterized by the dignified behaviour to be expected of a 
servant of the church. After two years of unpleasantness, things came to a 
head in a street brawl which occurred between the organist and a particu- 
larity offensive rowdy by the name of Geyersbach. The latter, by three 


years Sebastian's senior, happened to meet Bach on a dark night and 
attacked him with a stick, calling him a 'dirty dog' because the organist 
had made fun of him as a 'nanny-goat bassoonist.' Sebastian drew his 
sword, a fight began, and blood would have been shed had not the spec- 
tators intervened after sundry holes had been pierced in Geyersbach's 
camisole. The incident made Sebastian even more disgusted with the 
choir, and gradually he stopped working with it. Various unpleasant 
cross-examinations by the Consistory followed (of which the files have 
been preserved). Again and again his superiors urged him to accept the 
'imperfect conditions,' which they readily admitted, and work with the 
choir, but he stubbornly persisted in his point of view that the contract 
did not provide for this work, and that it should be entrusted to a choir 
master. 1 

Maria Barbara must have worried a good deal over this conflict be- 
tween her beloved and the authorities, but she could not learn too early 
the hard lesson that there was no pliability in Sebastian's nature. When he 
considered his claim justified, he would fight for it to the bitter end, even 
at the risk of endangering his own position. Indeed, the choir was not the 
only point of difference between the youthful organist and his superiors. 
Soon after the Geyersbach affair, Sebastian, anxious to forget his personal 
problems in a great musical experience, asked for four weeks' leave to visit 
the famous organist, Dietrich Buxtehude, 2 in Liibeck, and suggested that 
his cousin, Johann Ernst, should act as his substitute at the 'New Church.' 
The Consistory well understood their gifted young organist's desire to 
improve his art and gave him their permission to make the trip. So Sebas- 
tian turned again towards the North, this time travelling a distance of 230 
miles. 3 His plan was to attend the famous 'Evening musics' which Buxte- 
hude conducted at St. Mary's on five Sundays around Advent. 4 He 
arrived in Liibeck just in time for these events and found that the reality 
actually exceeded his highest expectations. Performances on such a scale 
(with 40 instruments taking part in addition to the choir) and of such 
perfection Sebastian had never previously witnessed. He even had a 
chance of attending the stirring 'Evening music' held in memory of the 

1 It seems that when Sebastian refused to co-operate, the training of the choir was done 
by Herthum's son-in-law, Andreas Borner. 

2 He had probably heard much about Buxtehude from Bohm, whose work was 
gready influenced by the Liibeck organist. 

3 The Necrolog states that he made the trip on foot, but this seems unlikely because 
of the short time available. 

4 They took place on the last two Sundays after Trinity and the second, third, and 
fourth Sunday in Advent. 


deceased Emperor Leopold I, as well as the celebration of the new 
Emperor's accession. Sebastian was held spellbound in Lubeck, and the 
idea of returning to his post at the end of the four weeks' leave did not 
enter his mind. He did not even trouble to write his superiors an apology 
for his greatly delayed return. The only thing that mattered was to absorb 
all the intricacies of Buxtehude's art. These were indeed glorious days for 
Bach, who was forever making new and exciting discoveries which were 
to be most fruitful in his own creative work. For Barbara, however, far 
away at Arnstadt, worrying over the reaction of Sebastian's superiors, 
they may have been hard to bear. It seems not unlikely that her beloved 
was so engrossed by his tremendous artistic experiences that he did not 
even write to her. But he did remain faithful; for when it was hinted to 
him that he might become Buxtehude's successor, providing he married, 
according to custom, the master's daughter, Anna Margreta, then 30 
years old, he declined, although the position at St. Mary's must have 
seemed most attractive to the organist of the smallest church in Arnstadt. 1 

It was after an absence of four months instead of four weeks that 
Sebastian reappeared in Arnstadt. Soon the congregation noticed a change 
in their organist's playing. Encouraged by what he had heard in Lubeck 
and overflowing with new ideas, Sebastian became rather unconventional 
in his accompaniments of the hymns, and his improvisations between the 
verses seemed never to come to an end. The congregation was amazed, 
bewildered, outraged and at times unable to stumble through the chorales. 
Finally the organist was again called before the Superintendent, Olearius, 
who, after reproaching him for his unauthorized long absence, took him 
to account for the 'many curious variations' he was inserting into the 
accompaniment. Strict orders were given him 'if he used a tonus pere- 
grinus (a strange key) 'to hold it out and not quickly to pass on to some- 
thing else or even, as he liked to do, to use a tonus contrarius (a key con- 
flicting with the former one). 

Though furious at these instructions, Sebastian had no alternative but 
to obey them, and all the joy went out of his work. If the good burghers 
wanted a dull organist, no doubt he could satisfy them, he thought. Hence, 
where he had previously done too much, he now did too little; and this 
time he was criticized because his preludes were too short. So it went on 
through the year 1706: complaints from the choral prefect, cross-examina- 
tions by his superiors, and ultimata issued to the organist, who promised 

1 Buxtehude had also tried unsuccessfully to win first Mattheson, and later Handel, 
as successor and son-in-law, but he eventually achieved his aim with J. Christian Schieffer- 
decker, who was of Bach's age and accordingly ten years younger than the bride. 


to answer in writing and never did. This Arnstadt position certainly did 
not offer a suitable basis for matrimony, poor Barbara felt; and finally she 
herself was the cause of another disagreement with the Consistory. Sebas- 
tian asked her to come to the organ gallery when the church was empty, 
and sing to his accompaniment. This she did, and their music-making must 
have delighted them both and further strengthened the bond between 
them. But the aftermath was not so pleasant. In Arnstadt nothing remained 
a secret for long. Someone had heard Barbara singing, tongues were set 
wagging, and Sebastian was again summoned by the Consistory to explain 
the presence of a 'strange maiden' in the organ gallery. 

By that time the organist was aware that he would have to look for 
another position. Fortunately a good opportunity presented itself before 
long. In the Free Imperial City of Miihlhausen, the highly renowned com- 
poser and organist of St. Blasius', Johann Georg Ahle, had died in 
December 1706. Once more the family got busy to secure the position for 
Sebastian. Maria Barbara was related on her mother's side to the Miihl- 
hausen Councillor, Johann Hermann Bellstedt, 1 and it was he who 
carried on the negotiations with young Bach. His recommendation was 
probably supported by the Miihlhausen organ builder, J. F. Wender, who 
had built Arnstadt's new instrument, which Sebastian had tested and 
approved in 1703. Thus it came about that young Bach was invited to 
give his trial performance at Easter 1707. Again he overwhelmed the 
congregation with his superb playing, and the pattern established at 
Arnstadt repeated itself. 

The authorities were truly anxious to secure his services and were 
even prepared for financial sacrifices. Asked to state his terms, Sebastian 
requested the salary he got at Arnstadt; and although Ahle, in spite of the 
esteem he had enjoyed, had received only 66 fl. 14 gr. yearly, the new 
organist was granted a yearly income of 85 fl. plus the amounts of 
grain, wood, and fish allowed to Ahle. The Council also undertook to 
send a waggon to Arnstadt for the transport of the organist's belongings. 

In June Bach again appeared before the Arnstadt Consistory, but with 
very different emotions! No recriminations were uttered this time, no 
evasive answers were necessary on his part; he merely notified the authori- 
ties of his appointment at Miihlhausen and asked for permission to hand 
back the keys of the organ. Everything went off smoothly; none of the 
two parties expressed their relief at this fortunate solution of an awkward 
problem, and young Sebastian in voicing his thanks displayed for once all 

1 Susanna Barbara Wedemann, aunt and godmother of Maria Barbara Bach, had 
married in 1680 Johann Gottfried Bellstedt, a kinsman of the Miihlhausen Councillor. 


the courtesy that custom demanded. This was most necessary, for the 
Consistory had, in effect, the power to annul his appointment by not 
accepting his resignation; and he knew that it was for such reasons that 
both his father, Ambrosius, and his uncle, Johann Christoph Bach, had 
been compelled to refuse outside offers and stay on in Eisenach. However, 
nothing of this kind happened, and the Consistory felt friendly enough 
disposed towards the Bach clan to appoint as Sebastian's successor his 
cousin, Johann Ernst, though with one significant stipulation: 
Johann Ernst's salary was to be only 40 fl., less than half Sebastian's 
stipend. 1 

Sebastian was now 22 years old and anxious to end his bachelor 
existence. Having exchanged a good position for another equally good, 
he felt able to take care of a wife and children. If he still had any fears 
about the extra expenses he would incur over the wedding and the 
furnishing of a modest home (responsibilities which he might have to 
shoulder alone, as his fiancee was an orphan without means), such fears 
were dispelled by a small legacy that came his way just at that time 
through the death of his uncle, Tobias Lammerhirt. 2 At first Sebastian 
went to Miihlhausen alone, to start his work and to find suitable accom- 
modation; but it was not long before he returned to Arnstadt for his bride. 
On October 17, 1707, the little church of Dornheim, a village near Arn- 
stadt, witnessed the simple wedding ceremony of Sebastian and Barbara 
Bach. The choice of this church was due to the family's friendship with 
its pastor, Lorenz Stauber, who himself was to marry Barbara's aunt, 
Regina Wedemann, a few months later. 3 

So Sebastian Bach assumed the responsibilities of a married man at a 

1 Johann Ernst (25) retained this position up to 1728, when, after the death of his kins- 
man, Andreas Borner, he became organist of Arnstadt's other two churches and received 
a salary of 77 fl. He died, almost blind, in 1739, and as his only son was but 2 years old 
at the time the organist's position which had been held by the Bach clan ever since 1641 
(by first Heinrich Bach, then his son-in-law Herthum, the latter's son-in-law Borner, 
and finally Johann Ernst Bach) was lost to the family. A daughter of Johann Ernst lived 
on at Arnstadt up to her death in 1792, the last member of the family to be traced in this 

2 By a curious coincidence another legacy reached him fourteen years later, when he 
was about to conclude a second marriage. This time it came from the widow of Tobias 

3 Stauber's first wife was a Hoffmann, probably a kinswoman of the Bachs. The 
wedding of Stauber and Regina Wedemann occurred on June 5, 1708, and was attended 
by the young Bach couple. It is probable that Sebastian's wedding cantata, Der Herr 
denket an uns, was written for this occasion. The friendship between the Staubers and Bach 
was maintained even after the latter's removal to Leipzig. When Regina died in 1731, her 
last will provided a legacy for the Thomas Cantor and his second wife. 


very young age. This was entirely in keeping with the family tradition, 
although it seems early to us who are used to consider freedom from 
personal ties and responsibilities as one of the requirements for the develop- 
ment of a young genius. But such freedom was not what Sebastian needed. 
To him, who at the age of 10 had been deprived of his parents, nothing 
seemed so desirable as a peaceful home where he really belonged. If ever 
a genius was suited to the state of matrimony, it was Sebastian Bach. He 
chose his partner with deep wisdom (such as neither Haydn nor Mozart 
possessed), and made of each of his two marriages a tremendous success. 
Home meant for him not only material comforts, but the sharing of his 
most profound interests. His spouse had to be more than a good house- 
keeper; she had to be a musician, able fully to appreciate her husband's 
work. Sebastian's second wife was a professional singer. Although no 
evidence has come down to us about Maria Barbara's musicianship (apart 
from her singing in the Arnstadt church) we can reasonably assume that 
someone who was descended from a line of outstanding artists, and who 
became the mother of two of Sebastian's most talented sons, was also a 
real helpmate to her husband in musical matters. 

The newly-wed pair spent a few days with their kinsfolk in Erfurt, 
and then travelled to Muhlhausen, where Sebastian threw himself vigor- 
ously into his new duties. 

The position at St. Blasius' conferred greater distinction than that at 
Arnstadt's least important church. The city of Muhlhausen had harboured 
a number of eminent musicians, and during the past fifty years St. Blasius' 
in particular had possessed quite outstanding organists in Johann Rudolph 
Ahle and his son, Johann Georg. Sebastian could not fail to be stimulated 
by the standard set by such renowned predecessors. All his aspirations for 
the improvement of church music, which had lain dormant in the un- 
congenial Arnstadt atmosphere, now manifested themselves with ele- 
mental force. The way he shouldered his new responsibilities would have 
amazed his former employers. Once more the contract merely stipulated 
that he should play the organ at all the services held at St. Blasius'. This 
time, however, such work was by no means sufficient for Sebastian. He 
felt responsible for the entire music offered in his church, and, further- 
more, he even took a lively interest in the musical progress of the neigh- 
bouring villages. At St. Blasius' he found the repertory somewhat old- 
fashioned, as the Ahles had mainly favoured the simple chorale-like sacred 
aria with instrumental ritornelli, neglecting the type of cantata de- 
veloped by Buxtehude and other North German masters. This had of 
course to be changed, and so Sebastian, together with his pupil, Johann 


Martin Schubart, diligently set about copying suitable works for the 
church library. He sometimes found performances more to his taste in the 
villages, and in his undiplomatic manner did not hesitate to say so, which 
was not exactly pleasing to the Miihlhausen citizens. He rejoiced in helping 
the village musicians and even provided some of his own compositions 
for their services, as he also did for the requirements of Miihlhausen. For 
the solemn inauguration in February 1708 of the new burgomasters and 
members of the Council, he wrote the 'congratulatory motet' Gott ist mein 
Konig, making splendid use of what he had learned from Buxtehude. The 
congregation could not help being thrilled by this solemn music, and his 
employers were so pleased that they had the work printed. 1 The Coun- 
cillors' appreciation of their new organist was further heightened when he 
handed them soon afterwards a careful survey of the deficiencies of his 
organ with advice on how to repair the instrument. So convincing was the 
craftsmanship and intrinsic knowledge revealed in each of his suggestions 
that they were accepted without demur, and an organ builder was en- 
trusted with their execution. Sebastian's specifications have been preserved, 
and from them we may reconstruct the young organist's idea of a good 
instrument. He liked the Baroque arrangement of the organ stops in 
groups, the members of which are closely interrelated in construction and 
tone-quality, while each group is sharply contrasted from the remainder in 
sonority and timbre. As he wished to increase the possibilities of such 
contrasts in dynamic power and tone-colour, he wanted the addition of a 
third manual to the two manuals and pedal of the Miihlhausen organ, as 
well as an increase in the number of bellows. 2 Moreover, 'as a novel in- 
clusion' he urged the building of a set of chimes operated from the pedal, 
which he had devised himself. It is interesting to note that the organ he 
suggested for Miihlhausen had much in common with the remodelled 
instrument of the Eisenach Georgenkirche, which Johann Christoph Bach 
had planned with so much care (cf. p. 36). Although the reconstruction 

1 Although such 'congratulatory motets' were often published, this was by no means 
the rule. In the years 1710 to 1713, for instance, in Miihlhausen, the text but not the music 
was printed. 

2 Though this is generally done, it does not seem justified to deduce from a document 
which Bach drafted at the age of 23 the mature master's conception of the ideal organ. 
It appears that the Leipzig Bach tried to avoid strong contrasts in the timbre of the stops 
and aimed rather at mixing and combining them. He worked towards their arrangement 
in two groups: the clear and bold open diapasons and the softer, less distinct accompanying 
stops suited for the execution of the continuo. In this way the solo and tutti arrangement 
of the concerto (a form which was of paramount importance for Bach's later organ 
works) also found expression in his conception of the ideal organ. Cf. W. Gurlitt, 'J. S. 
Bach,' 3rd ed., 1949. 


work at Eisenach was not begun until a year after Sebastian left, he 
doubtless had heard all the details of it from his relatives, and had perhaps 
even examined the instrument itself on its completion in 1707. That he 
let Johann Christoph's plan influence him so strongly in rebuilding his 
own organ shows again how firm were the artistic ties that bound him to 
his great forebears. 

Although his advice regarding the organ was fully heeded in Miihl- 
hausen, troubles for the young organist arose in other respects. Sebastian's 
pastor, Superintendent Frohne, had decided leanings towards Pietism, that 
new trend towards a more subjective faith that had been born out of a 
healthy reaction against the increasing petrifaction and narrow-mindedness 
of the Lutheran doctrine as preached in the orthodox churches. The con- 
flict was somewhat akin to that which had once existed between early 
Protestantism and the Catholic Church. Pietism stressed the importance 
of the Christian life against that of the mechanical adoption of dogma. In 
their striving for a religious revival, the Pietists shunned much that played 
an important role in the Protestant service. Some declared the Bible word 
preached in church to be 'dead,' unless its meaning found a deep response 
in the listener's soul; music, too, could become dangerous if it had too 
strong an effect on the senses. Thus many Pietistic theologians fought 
energetically against the inclusion of concerted music in the service, 1 
decrying it as 'sirensongs disturbing meditation, mixing the world's 
vanity with the sacred, and corrupting the gold of divine truth.' 2 It was an 
anti-artistic attitude very much like that of the Puritans. Pastor Frohne 
may have been responsible for the musical austerity prevalent at St. 
Blasius' before Sebastian arrived, and when he found his organist eagerly 
bent on remedying such shortcomings, he must have hesitated to support 
him. Nor can we assume that the congregation followed the newcomer's 
lead too readily. Reforms are nowhere accepted by the majority without 
demurring, and Miihlhausen certainly was no exception to the rule. What 
they had been accustomed to hear in the 33 years' service of Johann Georg 
Ahle (who, after all, was a native of Miihlhausen, and not just an outsider 
like this young Bach) was good enough for them, they felt. So quite a few 
rejected the organist's innovations as 'too worldly' and 'carnal.' Neverthe- 

1 This was not true of all the Pietists. Some sects, as for example the Herrenhuter, 
were in favour of elaborate church music; on the other hand, there were also orthodox 
pastors who condemned the concertizing organ style. Cf. Besch, 'J. S. Bach. Frommigkeit 
und Glaube,' Kassel, 1950. 

2 These remarks are quoted by Bach's predecessor, J. G. Ahle, in a new edition of 
his father's 'Kurze und deutliche Anleitung zu der lieblich und loblichen Singekunst* 
of 1704. 


less, such difficulties might eventually have been smoothed out and a com- 
promise agreed upon with pastor Frohne, who was not a fanatic and was 
likely to have appreciated his organist's true faith. Unfortunately, Sebas- 
tian could not help taking sides in a feud between Frohne and the pastor 
of St. Mary's, Georg Christian Eilmar, on matters of dogma. The latter, a 
passionate upholder of Orthodoxy, had started violent attacks against 
Frohne's Pietism as early as 1699. At that time the Council intervened and 
interdicted any further dispute of the kind. Now, however, the old con- 
flict was again brought into the open and the fight conducted in anything 
but a Christian spirit. Eilmar was the more aggressive, and his rigid insis- 
tence on the letter of the dogma does not make him appear in too pleasant 
a light. But he had one point in his favour: he allowed music an important 
part in the service. He wrote libretti for some of Sebastian's cantatas, 1 
and apparently thought much of the organist's talent. To receive en- 
couragement both in his general aims and in his creative efforts from so 
important a man must have meant a good deal to the young composer, 
and it naturally drew him towards Eilmar. He closed his eyes to Eilmar's 
narrow-mindedness and reactionary formalism and became sufficiently 
friendly with the pastor to suggest his being godfather to the first child 
which his young wife was expecting. Eilmar accepted, and when the girl 
was born in December 1708 he went to Weimar, whither the Bachs had 
moved, to attend the christening ceremony. The friendly connection 
continued, and for Sebastian's first son, Friedemann, Eilmar's daughter, 
Anna Dorothea Hagedorn, stood godmother. 

Looking at Sebastian's attitude from the viewpoint of his artistic 
personality, we are faced with a paradox. How could one who expressed 
with such eloquence the yearning for a mystic union with Christ, whose 
music was imbued with a longing to be relieved from the fetters of the 
mortal flesh, how could such an artist fight these very same emotions in 
the Pietistic doctrine? The clue to this riddle may perhaps be found in 
Sebastian's background and in his youth. He had been brought up in 
Lutheran Orthodoxy, and a man so deeply conscious of his family ties 
naturally felt bound to adhere to the type of religion his forebears had 
believed in. At the age of 23, overflowing with creative impulses, and eager 
to try out all kinds of artistic experiments, Sebastian had little time for 
introspection. He did not probe into the depths of his own faith, but 

1 This is certain for Gott ist meln Konig and probable for Aus der Tiefe rufe ich 
which bears at the end the note 'at the request of Mr. Georg Chr. Eilmar set to music by 
J. S. Bach, organist of Miihlhausen.' He may also have provided libretti for other cantatas 
of this period. 


simply followed the way which both his artistic interests and the tradition 
of the Bach clan (though not that of his mother's family !) clearly indi- 
cated. The Pietists, with their rejection of elaborate church music, were 
his enemies; the Orthodox, who saw in beautiful music a means of glori- 
fying the Lord, his friends. Beyond that he did not venture. This does not 
mean, however, that he maintained so intransigent an attitude throughout 
his life. There is no definite proof that he remained intolerant in his 
adherence to Orthodoxy; 1 certainly the texts he used for some of his can- 
tatas show him to have been anything but inimical to the spirit of Pietism. 
But whatever his subsequent attitude may have been, in Miihlhausen 
Sebastian could not see eye to eye with his Pietistic pastor, and con- 
sequently, less than a year after taking over the position, he was anxious 
to give it up. Luck was with him. In Weimar a court organist was needed 
to replace the aged and infirm Johann Effler, and Sebastian presented him- 
self in June 1708, gave his trial performance, and was naturally accepted. 
Thereupon he wrote the following letter to the Miihlhausen Council: 

'Magnificent High and very Noble, High and 
respected Gentlemen, 
Most Gracious Patrons and Gentlemen, 

'This is to express to your Magnificent and to my highly esteemed 
Patrons who of your grace bestowed on me, your humble servant, the 
office, vacant a year ago, of Organist to the church of St. Blasius, and 
granted me the enjoyment of a better subsistence, that at all times I desire 
to recognize your favours with obedient gratitude. I have always kept one 
end in view, namely, with all good will to conduct a well regulated church 
music to the honour of God, in agreement with your desires, and besides 
to assist, so far as possible to my humble ability, the church music that 
has grown up in almost all the neighbouring parishes, which is often 
better than the harmony produced here. To that end I have obtained from 
far and wide, and not without expense, a good collection of the choicest 
pieces of church music. 

'Furthermore I have laid before you the report of the defects in the 

1 The tendency of many Bach biographers to conclude from Sebastian's attitude in 
Miihlhausen that his strict adherence to Orthodoxy and his animosity towards Pietism 
lasted throughout his life does not seem justified. This would mean a lack of spiritual 
growth not in keeping with the nature of genius. As a further proof of Bach's Orthodoxy 
his library is usually referred to, which contained some 80 theological works, most of which 
were by leaders of Lutheran Orthodoxy. This certainly reveals the composer's strong 
interest in these problems, but we cannot deduce from it that he completely shared the 
several authors' views. 


organ needing repair, and at all times and places have with pleasure ful- 
filled the duties of my office. Yet this has not been done without opposi- 
tion, and at present there is not the slightest appearance that things will be 
altered, though in time, no doubt, our congregation will be brought to 
approve. Moreover I have humbly to represent that, modest as is my way 
of life, with the payment of house-rent and the purchase of indispensable 
articles of consumption, I can only with difficulty carry on a fitting 

'Now God has so ordered it that a change has unexpectedly been 
presented to me, in which I foresee the attainment of a more sufficient 
subsistence and the more effective pursuit of my aims in the due ordering 
of church music without interference from others, since His Royal and 
Serene Highness of Saxe- Weimar has graciously offered me the entree to 
His Court Capelle and Chamber Music. 

'In consequence of this privilege I hereby, with obedience and respect, 
represent it to my Most Gracious Patrons, and at the same time would ask 
them to take my small services to the church up to this time into favour- 
able consideration, and to grant me the benefit of providing me with a 
gracious dismissal. If I can in any way further contribute to the service of 
your church I will prove myself better in deed than in word, as long as life 
shall endure. 

'I am, Most Honourable Gentlemen, Most Gracious Patrons, 

Your Most Humble Servant, 

Joh. Seb. Bach. 
Miihlhausen, June 25, anno 1708.' 

The concluding remark evidently refers to the organ repairs started at 
his instigation. The authorities, while regretfully consenting to the 
organist's departure, asked him to continue to supervise the work; he 
promised gladly. Indeed, so friendly remained his relations with the Miihl- 
hausen Councillors that he was again commissioned, in 1709, to write the 
'congratulatory motet' for the inauguration of the new Council. 1 

Before leaving, Sebastian was able once more to suggest a cousin as 
his successor. The Council agreed, but insisted (again in the pattern of 
Arnstadt) that the new organist should receive a much lower salary. Thus 
Sebastian was replaced by Johann Friedrich, son of the great Johann 
Christoph of Eisenach, who, in the good old family tradition, retained 

1 Although this cantata was printed too, no copy has been traced so far, and we do 
not even know its tide. Yet the Miihlhausen files prove irrefutably that Bach wrote such 
a work. Cf. 'Miihlhauser Geschichtsblatter,' 1932. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN WEIMAR (1708-I717) 143 

the position up to his death in 1730. But such stability was as yet impos- 
sible for Sebastian, and so we see him in July 1708 joyfully starting a new 
life at Weimar. 



The geographical distance between Miihlhausen and Weimar is not 
more than 40 miles. Socially and economically, however, Sebastian 
travelled a long way when he exchanged his position in the Free Imperial 
City for one at the ducal court. From the outset his new salary was almost 
twice what he received in Miihlhausen, and it was destined to grow 
steadily throughout his stay at Weimar. And although succeeding the 
Ahles, father and son, at St. Blasius' had been a privilege indeed, yet, in 
the eyes of the world, a good position at a ducal court bestowed still more 
prestige. Added to the material advantages there were other considera- 
tions which meant much to the organist. His new patron was a fervent 
and deeply religious Lutheran, who valued music as an important means 
of glorifying the Lord. Here Sebastian found encouragement for carrying 
out his schemes for 'a well regulated church music,' and no opposition 
was to be anticipated from other religious sects, as the Duke, who ruled 
his land with an iron hand, would not tolerate anything but orthodox 

Later in the century, the small court of Weimar was to become the 
Athens of Germany, witnessing the golden age of literature dominated by 
the gigantic figures of Goethe and Schiller. Then, like a magnet, Weimar 
was to attract men eminent in all the realms of culture, men who were to 
find in the small residence of the enlightened Duke Carl August a most 
congenial atmosphere. In Bach's time there was as yet hardly a breath of 
that invigorating cultural climate, but even then Weimar was clearly 
different from the average small German court. Here religion was the axis 
around which everything revolved. The serious-minded Duke Wilhelm 
Ernst, in the 45 years of his rule, struck this note, and the court followed 
his lead. All ducal servants had to attend daily devotions and take turns 
in reading the Bible aloud. To let the attention wander during a sermon 
was highly dangerous, for the Duke had the unpleasant habit of question- 
ing his servants personally on every detail of the chaplain's discourse. It 
was also the Serenissimus himself who worked out the order in which his 


employees were to appear at the altar for Communion. Not only was the 
Duke engrossed in matters of religious dogma; he also attempted to lead 
a truly Christian life. Hence there arose at Weimar an atmosphere of 
austerity which was in strong contrast to the frivolity and extravagance 
prevalent at other German courts. Not a glimmer of light was visible 
about the castle after 8 p.m. in the winter and 9 p.m. in the summer. 
Festivities were rare, and even the troupe of actors 1 which the Duke 
had employed for some years was dismissed before Sebastian's arrival. 
Wilhelm Ernst's tastes were frugal but he insisted on a supply of fresh 
flowers every day; to meet his needs he had the castle's bearpit, where his 
predecessors had kept wild beasts, transformed into a beautiful garden. 
Whilst allowing only a small budget for entertainment, the Duke spent 
considerable sums on welfare and cultural institutions; showing himself 
in all such enterprises an important precursor of that type of enlightened 
ruler which Germany and Austria were to produce some 50 years later. 
Yet, on the other hand, he was convinced of his absolute power, and 
accepted as a matter of course the idea, characteristic of the epoch, that an 
unbridgeable gulf existed between his august self and his subjects. He was, in 
short, a despot, though a well-meaning one. In the field of music, however, 
the new organist's ideas seemed to move along the same lines as those of 
the patron, and there was every prospect of a harmonious relationship 
between Duke Wilhelm Ernst and Sebastian Bach. The Prince came to 
value his organist's gifts very highly, and to trust his judgment in musical 
matters implicitly. Although the organ of the Schlosskirche had been 
reconstructed as recently as 1708, Bach succeeded in inducing his patron 
to spend further substantial sums on it. First he had a set of chimes in- 
stalled similar to those he had prescribed for the Miihlhausen church, and 
before long he suggested a complete reconstruction, which the organ 
builder, Heinrich Trebs, executed between 1712 and 1714. 2 The Duke's 
co-operative attitude was all the young musician needed to unfold his 
genius. It was at Weimar that Bach the organist climbed to the loftiest 
heights. As his patron allowed him frequent absences, during which his 
competent pupil, J. M. Schubart, deputized, Sebastian often played at 
other courts and cities too, and his fame as an organ virtuoso spread all 
over Germany. Legends began to circulate; how all unknown he had 
visited a village church and coaxed such magnificent sounds out of a 
wretched instrument that the village organist whispered: 'This can only 

1 In 1696 the theatre was inaugurated with a work bearing the characteristic title 
'Of virtuous Love as opposed to sinful Desire.' 

J Cf. Jauernig in 'Johann Sebastian Bach in Thuringen,' 1950. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN WEIMAR (1708-1717) 145 

be the devil or Bach himself!' But the awe and admiration of his contem- 
poraries for Sebastian's stupendous virtuosity are also laid down in 
authentic reports. Constantin Bellermann, a rector of Minden, describes 
Bach's performance on the pedals at the court of Cassel thus: 'His feet flew 
over the pedal-board as though they had wings, and powerful sounds 
roared like thunder through the church. This filled Frederick, the Crown 
Prince, with such astonishment and admiration that he drew from his 
finger a ring set with precious stones and gave it to Bach as soon as the 
sound had died away. If the skill of his feet alone earned him such a gift, 
what might the Prince have given him had he used his hands as well.' To 
which we may add: and what would have been the just reward to the 
composer of the works that the performer interpreted so miraculously? 
For simultaneously with the organ virtuoso the organ composer Bach 
also climbed to the peak of his creative mastery, and the majority of his 
important organ works were written or at least started in Weimar. Kindled 
by the prevailing religious atmosphere they achieved a 'disembodied 
spirituality' (Forkel) which has perhaps been best characterized by the 
Weimar genius who heard them a century later. Goethe, listening to 
Bach's organ works, wrote: 'It is as though eternal harmony were con- 
versing with itself, as it may have happened in God's bosom shortly 
before He created the world.' 

Such insight was not given to Sebastian's contemporaries. Though 
learned musicians could not fail to be impressed by Bach's profound 
knowledge and superb craftsmanship, to most listeners his dazzling 
exploits as a performer necessarily obscured his creative achievements. 
Sebastian's own attitude in this matter will never be known. His was not 
an age of self-expression and introspection. What he is reported to have 
said about his own work is therefore quite unrevealing. Complimented 
on his great organ playing, he answered deprecatingly: 'There is nothing 
to it. You only have to hit the right notes at the right time and the instru- 
ment plays itself.' And Forkel reports: 'When he was asked how he had 
contrived to master the art to such a high degree, he generally answered: 
"I was obliged to work hard; whoever is equally industrious, will succeed 
just as well." ' It seems doubtful whether Bach was as modest as these 
utterances suggest. They were dictated rather by innate reserve and a 
natural contempt for people who asked questions that defied a real 

There is yet a third aspect of Sebastian's activities in connection with 
the organ. He gradually attained the position of a highly skilled expert on 
the construction of the instrument, and in this capacity he constantly 


received invitations to test newly completed or repaired organs. 'He was,' 
as Forkel reports, on the basis of information from Philipp Emanuel 
Bach, 'very severe, but always just, in his trials of organs. As he was 
perfectly acquainted with the construction of the instrument, he could not 
be in any case deceived. The first thing he did in trying out an organ was 
to draw out all the stops and play with the full organ. He used to say in 
jest that he must know whether the instrument had good lungs. After the 
examination was over, he generally amused himself and those present by 
showing his skill as a performer. . . . He would choose some subject and 
execute it in all the various forms of organ composition, never changing 
his theme, even though he might play, without intermission, for two hours 
or more. First he used it for a prelude' and a fugue, with the full organ. 
Then he showed his art of using the stops for a trio, a quartet, etc. After- 
wards there followed a chorale, the melody of which was playfully sur- 
rounded in the most diversified manner by the original subject, in three 
or four parts. Finally, the conclusion was made by a fugue, with full 
organ, in which either another treatment of the first subject predominated, 
or one or two other subjects were mixed with it.' 

Success won outside Weimar naturally had some bearing on his 
standing there; this was particularly true in the case of Halle. Five years 
after his arrival in Weimar, Sebastian visited this town and was greatly 
impressed by the plans for a rebuilding of the huge Liebfrauenkirche organ. 
To work on such an outstanding instrument (with 65 stops!) was 
tempting indeed; and as the organist's position, held up to 171 2 by 
Handel's teacher, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau, was still vacant, Sebastian 
applied for it. The Halle authorities showed themselves very interested, 
and at their urgent request Sebastian not only gave the customary per- 
formance on the organ but also produced a cantata of his own com- 
position. The electors were naturally much struck by his mastery, and 
hardly had Sebastian returned to Weimar when he received a contract 
from Halle for signature. 1 The conditions, however, were not too attrac- 
tive. The yearly salary paid in Halle was 196 fl. (to which some accidentien 
for weddings, etc. could be added) whereas in Weimar he received 225 fl. 
He therefore wrote back noncommittally and tried to obtain better condi- 
tions. Halle remained firm, however, and while Sebastian was weighing 

1 Paragraph 4 of this contract stipulated that the organist should accompany the 
hymns 'quietly on 4 or 5 stops with the Principal, so as not to distract the congregation . . . 
eschewing the use of Quintatons, reeds, syncopations, and suspensions, allowing the organ 
to support and harmonize with the congregation's singing.' This shows that Arnstadt's 
earlier complaints against young Sebastian's too elaborate accompaniment were quite in 
keeping with the prevailing opinion. 


its artistic attractions against the financial loss involved, his Duke con- 
siderably improved the Weimar contract, with the result that Sebastian 
now definitely declined the Halle position. The electors were mortified and 
hinted that the organist had used them simply as a means of securing 
better conditions at Weimar. Such insinuations he contested in an ener- 
getic letter, and his arguments must have been persuasive enough to calm 
the Halle authorities; for, two years later, when the great organ was 
completed, it was Sebastian who, together with the organ experts, Johann 
Kuhnau and Christian Friedrich Rolle, was invited to test it. Bach, 
delighted with the Halle electors' change of mind, accepted with alacrity 
and had a very good time indeed. Not only was it fascinating to try out 
the new organ, but he also enjoyed co-operating with the Thomas Cantor, 
Kuhnau, little foreseeing that he would succeed the great musician 7 
years later. Halle, on the other hand, outdid itself in courtesies to the three 
organists. Servants, coaches, and refreshments were more than plentiful. 
The menu of the concluding banquet is certainly impressive and deserves 
to be quoted in full: 

Boeuf a la mode. 

Pike with Anchovy Butter Sauce. 

Smoked Ham. 

Sausages and Spinach. 

Roast Mutton. 

Roast Veal. 

Peas. Potatoes. Boiled Pumpkin. Asparagus. Lettuce. Radishes. 


Candied Lemon Peel. Preserved Cherries. 

Fresh Butter. 

The wine is not mentioned especially, but there is every reason to believe 
that the guests of honour sampled no small amount of it. 1 

From now on work in Weimar was even more absorbing. At the 
beginning of his employment, Sebastian had been engaged as court 
organist and chamber musician, the latter title meaning that he also played 
the violin in the ducal band. A contemporary chronicler reports: 'The 
Duke's ears frequently enjoyed the playing of 16 well-disciplined musi- 
cians clad in Hungarian haiduk uniforms,' and on these occasions Sebas- 
tian probably had to appear in this fanciful attire. Nominally the conduc- 
tor of the band was Johann Samuel Drese, but infirmity and old age made 
him unable to officiate. For a considerable time his place had been filled 

1 In Sebastian's expense bills the item for wine was quite a considerable one. For 
instance, when he went to Gera in 1724 to examine a new organ, he received 30 fl. as a 
fee, 10 fl. for transportation, 17 fl. 8 gr. 8 pf. for food, and 7 fl. 8 gr. for wine. 


by deputies, the last being Drese's own son, Johann Wilhelm, who had 
been trained at the Duke's expense in Italy and now held the rank of vice- 
conductor. The Duke, although supporting the Dreses out of loyalty to 
an old servant, could not help realizing that it would be a wise move to 
entrust part of the conductor's duties to his admirable organist. So, when 
Sebastian received the invitation from Halle, he created for his organist 
the new post of Concertmaster with a salary of 240 fl., and the obligation 
of composing and performing a new cantata every month; leaving to the 
younger Drese the duty of supplying the court with new secular music. 1 

The result was that Sebastian now had an opportunity of working 
with both singers and instrumentalists, and was able to lay the foundations 
of his mastery as a conductor. The rehearsals, like the performances, took 
place in the court chapel, a Baroque monstrosity in the worst taste, 2 which, 
however, bore a name most appropriate to the music resounding in it, 
being called the 'Castle of Heaven.' 3 This time the conductor, who led 
the group with his violin, had no trouble with the singers. There were 12 
well-trained vocalists at his disposal, among them the excellent altist, 
Christian Gerhard Bernhardi, himself a composer, for whom Bach wrote 
some very intricate parts. 4 The widening of his musical duties brought 
much joy to the new Concertmaster, and several great cantatas using texts 
by the eminent Salomo Franck, Secretary of the Consistory, first saw the 
light in Weimar. 

In other respects, too, life was satisfactory at the small Court. Sebas- 
tian's home was a happy one. Children arrived regularly, among them 
three sons — Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and Johann 
Gottfried Bernhard — destined to display outstanding musical talent. 

Godparents for the Bachs' offspring were not chosen locally, and it is 
interesting to note that among 15 persons who acted in this capacity, 13 
came from other places. It would seem that Bach, deeply absorbed in 
creative work, had not too much time for establishing new contacts in 
Weimar. Yet there was one fellow musician with whom he struck up an 
important friendship: the town organist, Johann Gottfried Walther, also 
born in 1685, a pupil of Sebastian's cousin, Johann Bernhard Bach, and, 
moreover, a kinsman on the Lammerhirt side (cf. p. 17) who had spent his 
childhood in the house 'The Three Roses,' where Sebastian's mother was 

1 Cf. Jauernig, I.e. 

2 The chapel was destroyed by fire in 1774 together with the castle, and new 
buildings were erected according to Goethe's plans. 

8 It was originally called 'Path to the Castle of Heaven' on account of a small pyramid 
which rose from the altar to the ceiling carrying litde cherubs towards Heaven. 
* Cf. Cantatas 132, 161, 185. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN WEIMAR (1708-I717) 149 

born. 1 The two Weimar organists were both newly married, and when 
Walther's first son was born, Bach stood godfather. In Walther, an emi- 
nent organist and a composer of outstanding chorale preludes, Sebastian 
found a congenial spirit; in his zeal for self-improvement he discovered 
that much could be learned from his colleague. In particular, their common 
interest in Italian music formed a strong bond, and there was a friendly 
competition between them in the arrangement of Italian concertos for key- 
board instruments. According to Walther, Bach presented him with no 
less than 200 compositions, partly his own and partly B ohm's and Buxte- 
hude's. Friendly relations were also established with Johann Mathias 
Gesner, 2 vice-principal of the Weimar Gymnasium, who became one of 
Sebastian's staunch admirers. Of course there was also frequent inter- 
course with kinsmen and with musicians in nearby places. In Eisenach 
there was Johann Bernhard Bach, and from 1708 to 1712 the celebrated and 
prolific Georg Philipp Telemann, who, after moving to Frankfurt, stood 
godfather to Sebastian's second son. The city of Jena, which formed part 
of the Duke of Weimar's territory, was within reach, and visits to Johann 
Nicolaus Bach could easily be arranged. 

Gifted pupils provided a further enrichment of his life. Among them 
were the excellent organists, Schubart and Vogler, and also Johann Tobias 
Krebs, a Cantor himself, who walked regularly for seven years from the 
village of Buttelstadt to Weimar, in order to receive instruction from 
Walther and Bach. Continuing the old family tradition, Sebastian under- 
took the training of two young kinsmen, Johann Lorenz (38), grandson 
of Georg Christoph (10) from Schweinfurt, and Johann Bernhard (41), 
son of Sebastian's own teacher and eldest brother, Johann Christoph 
(22) of Ohrdruf. 3 With four children, various pupils, and one of his 
wife's sisters who lived with them, Sebastian's home was just as full of 
life as his hospitable father's had been. 

He also had sundry pupils of a more exalted rank. The princely patron 
whom he had served when first working in Weimar for a few months in 
1703 (cf. p. 130) died in 1707, but he left two sons in whom Sebastian was 
greatly interested. The younger, Johann Ernst, had a really outstanding 

1 The house belonged to Valentin Lammerhirt, from whose widow it was bought 
by Hedwig Bach, the wife of Johann. It remained in the family until 1688, when J. 
Egidius Bach sold it to J. Stefan Walther, the father of the organist. 

2 Gesner had studied at the University of Jena and probably made friends with 
J. Nicolaus Bach. 

3 J. Lorenz stayed at Weimar from 1713 to 1717, whereupon he was appointed Cantor 
in Lahm, Franconia. J. Bernhard moved with Sebastian to Cothen, staying until 1719. 
In 1 72 1 he succeeded his late father in office. 


musical talent, and three of his violin concertos were transcribed by Bach 
for keyboard instruments; these works written in the Italian style were 
even granted the honour of being mistaken for compositions by Vivaldi. 
Johann Ernst's real teacher was Walther; but there was undoubtedly much 
artistic intercourse between the court organist and the young Prince, and 
Sebastian must have grieved indeed when a tragic fate carried off the 
talented youth in 171 5 at the age of 19. 

But there was an elder brother, Prince Ernst August, who was also 
interested in music, and he studied the clavier with Bach. Ernst August 
was not what one would call a lovable character; contemporary reports 
make him appear a highly eccentric man, whose actions sometimes 
bordered on insanity. His ideas about government were decidedly old- 
fashioned; for when he succeeded his uncle, Wilhelm Ernst, as a ruler of 
Weimar, he issued an edict threatening any subject proved to have 
'reasoned,' i.e. criticized conditions in his land, with six months' imprison- 
ment. At the time of Sebastian's work at Weimar, the Prince's views had 
not yet assumed so excessive a character. Bach spent a good deal of time 
in Ernst August's castle, taking part in its very active musical life, 1 and 
the Prince, according to a statement from Emanuel Bach to Forkel, 'parti- 
cularly loved him and rewarded him appropriately.' 2 This was destined 
to be fatal to Sebastian's position in Weimar. The relations between 
Wilhelm Ernst, the reigning sovereign, and his nephew and heir, Ernst 
August, were very strained indeed. According to the charter of the Duchy 
of Saxe- Weimar, all executive power was centred in the eldest Duke, his 
younger relatives having a purely consultative role in the government. 
So vague a provision naturally opened the door to family quarrels of all 
kinds; during Sebastian's stay at Weimar these assumed inordinate pro- 
portions. Duke Wilhelm Ernst definitely had a mind of his own and did 
not relish any advice from his nephew. Ernst August, on the other hand, 
insisted on voicing his opinions and there was constant friction and 
antagonism. These were difficult times for the court employees, who 
needed a good deal of tact not to become involved in the feud between the 
two Princes. The court musicians in particular found themselves in a sad 
predicament when Duke Wilhelm Ernst, on pain of a 10 thalers fine, 
forbade them to play in his nephew's castle. This was most unfair, as the 

1 Jauernig, I.e., points to items in the Particulier Cammerrechnungen der Fiirstl. 
Sachs. Jiingeren Linie revealing considerable expenses for copying music, and buying 
instruments. One of these was a Lautenwerk acquired for the price of 41 fl. 3 gr. from the 
Jena Bach. 

2 Cf. letter to Forkel of January 13, 1775. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN WEIMAR (1708-1717) 151 

musicians counted among the 'joint servants' and were remunerated from 
the joint treasury. Bach's sense of justice and his independent spirit made 
him pay no heed to so unreasonable an order. Indeed, on Duke Ernst 
August's birthday he performed a cantata with musicians from the nearby 
court of Weissenfels, 1 and handed the Duke a birthday poem bound in 
green taffeta, for which he was handsomely rewarded. Naturally the elder 
Duke's ire was roused and he soon found a way to punish his concert- 

In December 171 6 old Drese, the Kapellmeister, died, and by all 
rights the position should have been conferred on Sebastian Bach, who in 
the past two years had assumed most of its duties. This was what Sebas- 
tian himself expected as a matter of course. The Duke, however, first tried 
to secure Telemann, and when this proved impossible he conferred the 
position on the former vice-conductor, Johann Wilhelm Drese. Sebas- 
tian's disappointment and humiliation at having been passed over for the 
sake of a nonentity like young Drese were intense, and the work at 
Weimar lost its attraction for him. It is significant that after old Drese's 
death no trace of any cantatas written by the Concertmaster is to be 
found. Even at the Bicentenary of the Reformation, celebrated in grand 
style, the fervent admirer of Luther remained silent. It is possible that the 
Duke, when conferring the conductorship on young Drese, expected him 
henceforth to supply all the new cantatas required. Bearing in mind 
Sebastian's behaviour in Arnstadt, however, it seems just as likely that the 
headstrong Concertmaster simply stopped composing for his patron in 
order to express his grievance. 

The sequence of events bears an interesting resemblance to that in 
Miihlhausen. Again Sebastian was drawn into a conflict that did not really 
concern him; just as he had supported Eilmar against his own superior in 
Miihlhausen, so in Weimar he revealed his attachment to the younger 
Duke, and infuriated his actual patron. In each case a less straightforward 
nature could have avoided entanglement in such feuds. Sebastian, how- 
ever, was anything but a tactician. Indeed, there was a definitely pug- 
nacious streak in his disposition; far from trying to avoid difficulties, he 
acted rather to provoke them, and then used all his energy and resource- 
fulness to overcome the resulting trouble. 

Accordingly, after nine years of service at Weimar, Sebastian began 
to consider moving again. Those friendly relations with the younger 

1 Jauernig claims that this was Bach's Jagdkantate (cf. p. 226). Spitta's assumption 
that the performance of this work in Weimar took place after 1728 (the year in which Duke 
Wilhelm Ernst died) seems less probable. 


Duke that had spoiled his promotion now helped him to reach his goal. 
Duke Ernst August had married in 1716 a sister of Prince Leopold of 
Anhalt-Cothen, the young ruler of a tiny principality that had come into 
existence through the partition of the little Duchy of Anhalt. Bach was on 
excellent terms with the Duchess, and it did not take long for her brother 
to discover what a prize he could acquire for his own court. He therefore 
decided to reorganize his music staff; his conductor was to retire in August 
I7i7,and the Prince offered the position to Sebastian on highly favourable 
terms. The character of the work was the diametrical opposite of that in 
Weimar. No organ playing and no composition of church music was 
expected from the conductor; for the Cothen court had adopted as early 
as 1596 the Reformed (Calvinistic) Church, which meant that except for 
certain feast days only the simplest kind of unadorned psalmody was per- 
mitted in the service. On the other hand, the Prince was deeply interested 
in instrumental music, and in this field the conductor was expected to be 
constantly at work. Acceptance of the Cothen position therefore meant 
breaking with almost everything that Sebastian had hitherto aimed at and 
accomplished. As a musician, and with his consuming zest for experi- 
menting, he could not fail to be fascinated by the very novelty of his 
prospective artistic duties. So, although Sebastian did not uphold the 
religious doctrine of the Cothen court, he accepted the offer; and from 
August 1, 1717, he was on the princely pay-roll, despite the fact that he 
had not yet received his leave from Weimar. At the same time the 
generous Prince Leopold paid him an additional amount of 50 thalers 
to defray the expenses of his removal, and it appears that Sebastian settled 
his large family in Cothen before matters were straightened out in 
Weimar. From Cothen he travelled to Dresden, where at that moment a 
French organist and clavier player, Louis Marchand, was making a 
tremendous impression. Sebastian, who had known and admired Mar- 
chand's compositions for some time, naturally could not miss so good an 
opportunity to hear the great man perform and possibly to meet him. 
Little did he suspect that instead of his honouring the French master, the 
honours would be bestowed on him. For as soon as his presence became 
known in Dresden, an influential courtier (possibly Count Flemming) 
suggested holding a competition on the clavier between the French and 
the German master. The challenge was accepted on both sides, but when 
Sebastian presented himself before the exalted audience which was to wit- 
ness the contest, his opponent was not there. After a prolonged wait, a 
messenger sent to Marchand brought word that the Frenchman had 
secretly left Dresden that very morning, thus admitting the superiority of 

J. SEBASTIAN IN WEIMAR (1708-1717) 153 

his German rival. Any disappointment the guests may have felt at missing 
so thrilling a spectacle was quickly dispersed by the inimitable art of Bach, 
who now entertained them on the clavier. 

With the enthusiastic acclaim of the Dresden nobility still ringing in 
his ears, Sebastian returned to Weimar to settle the little formality of 
getting official release from his duties. In his former appointments this had 
never presented any difficulty, and apparently Sebastian did not anticipate 
any trouble in Weimar. His pupil, Johann Martin Schubart, who had 
deputized for him on the organ, would be well qualified to succeed him. 
The post of Kapellmeister, with all pertaining duties, was held by the 
younger Drese, and a Concertmaster was no longer needed. With Duke 
Wilhelm Ernst, however, such reasonable arguments counted as little as the 
fact that Bach was offered a substantially higher stipend at Cothen. 
Changes in his personnel were always annoying to him; he even retained 
old servants who were of no use. Moreover, although he was angry with 
Bach, his renowned organist was an asset to the court which he did not 
like to surrender. Finally, it would be most vexing to let Bach go to the 
Prince of Cothen, who, as the brother-in-law of Prince Ernst August, 
naturally belonged to the enemy's camp. He therefore decided to refuse 
Bach's release, and thought that the organist, though upset at first, would 
eventually calm down. In this assumption he was mistaken, however, for 
Bach did not submit to the decision of his patron. Indeed, so outspoken 
was his insistence that (according to the court secretary's report) 'he was 
put under arrest for too obstinately requesting his dismissal.' From 
November 6 to December 2 Sebastian remained in jail, making the best 
use of his enforced leisure by working on his Orgelbiichlein; but as he 
showed no inclination whatever to give in, and as the Duke on the other 
hand did not care for an open wrangle with the Cothen court, the recalci- 
trant organist was at last released 'with notice of his unfavourable dis- 
charge.' As was to be expected, Schubart was appointed his successor and 
retained this position until his early death in 1721, when he was replaced 
by another Bach pupil, Johann Caspar Vogler; thus the Bach tradition of 
organ playing was kept alive in Weimar until Vogler's passing in 1765. 
This does not mean, however, that Sebastian Bach was kindly remembered 
in Weimar's official circles. Two facts clearly illuminate this unrelenting 
attitude. Walther treated Bach in his Musiklexikon in a strangely super- 
ficial manner; he did not even list those works which he himself had 
received from Sebastian. This was not due to an estrangement, for we 
know from other sources 1 that Walther continued to feel the greatest 

1 Cf. Schiinemann in BJ, 1933. 


esteem for this 'cousin and godfather/ but as an employee of the city of 
Weimar he apparently had to pay heed to the dictates of the local censor. 
The same official exercised his veto when, five years later, Wette published 
a history of Weimar; in it, among the names of the Weimar court organ- 
ists, the one who had conferred lasting glory on the town was simply left 
out. 1 

Sebastian Bach's determined defiance of his patron's wishes constitutes 
an important, though as yet isolated, landmark in the artists' fight for 
social freedom. At this point of his career he certainly broke with the 
family tradition. Ambrosius Bach and Johann Christoph had both been 
forced to stay on in Eisenach against their will; Sebastian refused to be 
cowed by similar restrictions. How gleefully would his forebears have 
applauded had they been privileged to hear his 'stiff-necked protestations,' 
which finally opened the jail doors for him! 



When Barbara's seventh child was born, an august group of god- 
parents assembled at Cothen for the christening; three members of the 
princely family joined forces with a Court Councillor and the wife of a 
Court Minister, both members of the aristocracy. 2 This fact clearly reveals 
Sebastian's position at Cothen. At Weimar such exalted godparents had 
not been available for any of the six Bach children born there. The Cothen 
Court Conductor, however, was a person of high standing. His salary of 
400 thalers equalled that of the Court Marshal, the second highest official, 
and his princely patron treated him as a revered and cherished friend. 
Prince Leopold, 23 years old, and thus nine years his conductor's junior, 
was a true lover of the Muses. From a trip to Italy he brought home valu- 
able objects of art, and he greatly enlarged the court library. As regards 
music, he was much more than a mere enthusiast. He played with profes- 
sional skill the violin, viola da gamba, and clavier; moreover he was a 
competent singer who had a pleasant baritone voice. Sebastian bestowed 
on him the highest praise in claiming that the Prince 'not only loved but 

1 Significant is the remark on the title-page of Wette's book: 'Unter hoher Censur 
und Bewilligung des Hochfiirsd. Ober-Consistorii ans Licht gestellet.' 

2 The child received with such pomp died after ten months. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN COTHEN (1717-I723) 155 

knew music.' The profundity of Leopold's understanding is indeed re- 
vealed by the works which the new conductor wrote for his master. Com- 
positions such as the sonatas for violin solo and the suites for violoncello 
solo can be truly appreciated only by someone with the deepest musical 

Under the rule of Prince Leopold's widowed mother the small court 
of Cothen had been run on strictly economical lines; music had hardly any 
place in it, and only three musicians had been employed in the princely 
service. As soon as Leopold came of age, decisive changes were made. An 
orchestra of 17 players was established, and the Prince was fortunate in 
securing some eminent players in Berlin, where the anti-musical King 
Friedrich Wilhelm I had dissolved his own band in 171 3. When Bach took 
over he found a well-trained instrumental body. 1 Gradually fine instru- 
ments were purchased too, such as a harpsichord, for the acquisition of 
which Bach was sent to Berlin, and two Stainer violins. Inspired by the 
new possibilities thus opening to him, and by his patron's passionate 
interest and delighted approval, Bach now created a profusion of works. 
The accounts of the bookbinders who bound the parts copied from Bach's 
scores attest the new conductor's frenzy of productivity; 2 on the other 
hand, the sums spent on the acquisition of music from outside were negli- 
gible. A great part of Bach's output in these years is lost; but what has 
been preserved — works like the suites for orchestra and the Brandenburg 
Concertos — reflect the exuberance of an artist discovering new means of 
expression, and the peace of mind of the composer who had found real 
understanding and appreciation in his new patron. 3 Peaceful indeed were 
these first years at Cothen, and this, significantly enough, in spite of the fact 
that the little residence itself was by no means free from the religious dissen- 
sions prevalent in Bach's time.The Prince's parents had belonged to different 

1 There were 8 soloists, designated as 'chamber musicians,' mentioned in the 
accounts; they received higher salaries than the ripienists. The soloists took care of the 
following instruments: 2 violins, 1 'cello, 1 viola da gamba, 1 oboe, 1 bassoon, 2 flutes. 
The lack of a chamber musician for the viola is explained by Bach's predilection for the 
instrument, a predilection which Emanuel reported to Forkel. Among the players, Christian 
Ferdinand Abel should be mentioned; he was the father of Carl Friedrich Abel, whom we 
shall later meet in London as the partner of Johann Christian Bach. Sebastian's violoncello 
suites were probably written for the elder Abel. 

2 Smend, who carefully went through the accounts in the Landesarchiv Sachsen- 
Anhalt at Oranienbaum, estimates that in 1719-20 at least 50 works of ensemble music 
must have been bound. Cf. his 'Bach in Kothen,' Berlin, 195 1. 

3 Smend has proved that Bach also composed a number of cantatas in Cothen, some 
for the Prince's birthday, some for New Year's Day and similar occasions. In some cases 
this music was later used for church cantatas of the Leipzig period (cf. Nos. 32, 66, 120, 
134, 173, 184), while the music of others is lost. 


— • "* 

denominations. His father had fallen in love and married Gisela Agnes v. 
Rath, although this was socially and religiously a mesalliance; for his bride 
came from the ranks of the lesser nobility and was a Lutheran, while he him- 
self, like the majority of the Duchy's population, belonged to the Reformed 
Calvinistic Church. Neither of the two partners changed his or her reli- 
gious adherence, and Gisela Agnes did her best to obtain privileges for her 
fellow Lutherans. Yielding to her persuasion, the happy husband allowed 
a Lutheran church and school to be built in Cothen, thus provoking the 
wrath of his own Consistory. Heated feuds raged over the allotment of 
church taxes, the use of the Calvinistic church bells, etc., and finally 
appeals to revoke the Prince's decisions were made even to the Emperor. 
When the young Prince Leopold assumed the government, he confirmed 
his father's policy, claiming that the 'greatest happiness of his subjects 
depended on their freedom of conscience being safeguarded.' A very en- 
lightened point of view, to be sure, but unfortunately one that was not 
shared by the majority of the citizens. Thus at the time when Bach came 
to Cothen religious quarrels and disputes had by no means abated. The 
Sebastian of Miihlhausen would have felt in duty bound to take up the 
cudgels and fight for his own denomination. Not so the Cothen court 
conductor. For the time being he was much more interested in musical 
than in religious problems. From the outset he had been aware that he 
would find a religiously uncongenial atmosphere at the Cothen court, and 
he had decided to take this in his stride. Naturally he never conceived 
the idea of adopting his patron's religion. On the other hand, he did 
not intercede in favour of his fellow Lutherans. He contented himself 
with attending the Lutheran church and sending his children to the 
Lutheran school. Beyond that he let things alone, and was very happy 
indeed in his artistic work and in the economic and social prestige he 
had achieved. 

A new source of satisfaction was opening to him in his children. By 
now it had become clear that the eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, 
possessed great talent, and the father decided to train him in earnest. On 
January 22, 1720, when Friedemann was nine and a half, Sebastian started 
a 'clavier book' for him, which was subsequently to be used for all the Bach 
children, and for other pupils as well. It is a most interesting document on 
Sebastian Bach the teacher, revealing his methodical mind and revolu- 
tionary fingering (cf. p. 265). This Clavier bilchlein belonged to the series 
of books of instructive keyboard music already started in Weimar, a 
series which comprised such masterworks as the Orgelbiichlein, the Inven- 
tions, and the Well-Tempered Clavier. The master apparently enjoyed 

J. SEBASTIAN IN COTHEN (1717-1723) 157 

creative work which served educational purposes, occupying in this re- 
spect a unique position among the great composers. The planning of a 
systematic course of instruction satisfied his keen and logical mind. His 
creative fire was always kindled by self-imposed restrictions, and the 
challenge afforded him by the solution of certain problems of teaching 
inspired him to real works of art. Forkel, relying on the testimony of 
Philip Emanuel Bach, described Sebastian's method as clavier instructor 
as follows: 

'The first thing he did was to teach his pupils his peculiar mode of 
touching the keyboard. For this purpose he made them practise for 
months nothing but isolated exercises for all the fingers of both hands, 
with constant regard to the production of a clean, clear tone. Over a 
period of some months no pupil was excused from these exercises, and, 
according to his firm opinion, they should be continued for six to twelve 
months at least. But if he found that anyone, after some months of prac- 
tice, began to lose patience, he was so considerate as to write little connect- 
ing pieces, in which these exercises were linked together. To this type 
belong the six little Preludes for beginners, and still more the fifteen two- 
part Inventions. He wrote down both during the hours of teaching, and, 
in so doing, attended to the immediate requirement of the pupil; after- 
wards he transformed these pieces into beautiful and expressive little 
works of art. With the finger training was combined the practice of all 
the ornaments in both hands. After this he set his pupils to the task of 
studying his own greater compositions, which, as he well knew, would 
give them the best means of exercising their powers. In order to lessen the 
difficulties, he made use of an excellent method; this was to play to them 
the whole piece which they were to study first, saying: "This is how it 
must sound." * 

That some pupils lost patience during these first hard months seems 
understandable. That the teacher did not strikes one as amazing. Did Bach 
not feel that he could use his time better than by watching beginners 
struggling with their first exercises? Apparently he did not. To a great 
extent he regarded music as a craft, and in instructing his 'apprentices' he 
acted as generations of Bach musicians had done before him. However, 
he exhibited such patience only with gifted pupils. Lack of talent and a 
lukewarm attitude towards his craft made his temper boil over. He was 
the perfect teacher for talented youths, but he was unable to put up with 

There was, to be sure, no musical mediocrity in Sebastian's children; 


they were, as he proudly wrote, 'all born musicians,' and their instruction 
was a delight to their father. To the student of hereditary problems Sebas- 
tian's sons are a strange and puzzling phenomenon indeed. They seem to 
disprove the theory of Wilhelm Ostwald that a genius uses up all the 
latent creative and spiritual forces inherited from ancestors, and is thus 
unable to produce a genius himself. Perhaps this exception to the general 
rule is explained by the enormous musical inheritance piled up in the Bach 
family, an inheritance which even Sebastian could not entirely exhaust; 
and, moreover, by the fact that the musical inheritance of his two wives 
was only latent, and they were thus able to hand it on in full strength to 
their own great sons. 

In July 1720, when Friedemann had reached his tenth year, an event 
occurred that tragically broke up the Bach idyllic existence in Cothen. 
While Sebastian was at the Bohemian spa of Carlsbad, accompanying his 
patron, who did not want to forgo the enjoyment of chamber music while 
taking the waters, Barbara Bach was suddenly prostrated by illness. There 
was not even enough time to summon her husband; when he returned in 
high spirits, a scene of desolation greeted him, and he had to be told that 
his beloved wife had died and been buried. The children, aged 12, 10, 6, 
and 5, had lost their mother, and Sebastian was without the devoted 
companion who had shared courageously the vicissitudes of his early 
struggles. This was indeed a cruel fall from security and gaiety to loneli- 
ness and grief, and to bear it he needed all the spiritual resources which 
his faith provided. To Sebastian Bach death had always seemed as a 
release fervently to be longed for, which in destroying the body would 
simultaneously relieve the soul of its sins. Death was for him not the end, 
but the culmination of spiritual life. Possibly during the first joyful years 
spent at Cothen he had to some extent put aside such thoughts. Now, 
however, he turned to them again, and religious experiences assumed 
their old significance for him. He began to realize that for all the pleasure 
he derived from the association with his beloved patron, there was some- 
thing lacking in his existence at Cothen, and he was again filled with a 
longing to express his innermost faith through church music. Just at that 
time the organist of Hamburg's Jakobikirche died, and 8 musicians, 
among them Sebastian Bach, were invited to compete for the position. 
To Sebastian Hamburg was still hallowed by the youthful impressions he 
received there, and eagerly he travelled to the Northern city to find out 
more about the vacancy. He learned that the trial performances were to 
take place on November 28, and that three Hamburg organists, among 
them venerable Reinken, had been named adjudicators. The date did not 

J. SEBASTIAN IN COTHEN (1717-I723) 159 

suit Bach, who had to return earlier to Cothen for the celebration of his 
patron's birthday, but he arranged to play before that day on Reinken's 
organ in the Catharinenkirche. Out of courtesy to the veteran master he 
chose as subject for his improvisations the very same chorale An IVasser- 
flilssen Babylons which in Reinken's dazzling treatment had held young 
Sebastian spellbound some twenty years previously. For a long time he 
played, piling one gigantic structure on the other and revealing his 
stupendous mastery. Finally Reinken, who as a rule did not indulge 
in praise of other musicians, exclaimed: 'I thought this art was dead, but I 
see it still lives in you.' Whether the Necrolog (cf. p. 122) is right in 
reporting that Bach played 'before the Magistrate and many other distin- 
guished persons of the town, to their general astonishment,' or whether 
the master performed only to the three musical experts, is not known. 
Anyway there is no doubt that the Hamburg Council favoured his appoint- 
ment. But there was one serious drawback. Sebastian was informed during 
his visit that it was customary at Hamburg to sell certain offices to the 
highest bidder; even in the churches a newly appointed employee was 
expected to make a handsome payment. A passage in the minutes of the 
meeting determining the policy regarding the election of the new organist 
for the Jakobikirche reads thus: 'The capacity of the candidate should be 
considered more than the payment, but if the chosen candidate of his own 
free will desires to make a contribution as a token of his gratitude, it will 
be accepted for the benefit of the church.' In spite of such cautious 
language it was clear to everybody concerned that such 'voluntary' pay- 
ment could not be dispensed with. This must have displeased Sebastian 
greatly. He probably did not have the money available, but even if he had, 
it would have been a matter of pride for him not to pay for a position in 
which he would make an outstanding contribution to the religious life of 
Hamburg. He left the town promising to write to the Council; and the 
decisive board meeting was postponed for a whole week until the arrival 
of Bach's letter. The contents cannot have been encouraging, for after 
reading the letter the committee decided to appoint a certain Johann 
Joachim Heitmann, who acknowledged his gratitude by paying the tidy 
little sum of 4000 Marks. The pastor of the church, Erdmann 
Neumeister (famous for his outstanding cantata texts, several of which 
Bach had set to music) was disgusted indeed with the affair. As this 
happened shortly before Christmas, he found a chance of airing his 
grievance in the festival sermon. Speaking eloquently of the angelic music 
at the birth of Christ, he remarked acidly that if one of those angels came 
down from Heaven wishing to become an organist at his church and 



played divinely, but had no cash, he might just as well fly away again, 
for they would not accept him in Hamburg. 

On his return from Hamburg, Bach set to work on a meticulous copy 
of six orchestral concertos which he sent in March 1721, with a courteous 
French dedication, to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, whom 
he had probably met on one of his visits to Carlsbad. The works had been 
written for, and performed by, the excellent Cothen orchestra, as is proved 
by many details of orchestration (cf. p. 286). Margrave Christian Ludwig, 
however, had no musical resources of the kind available, and it is not 
surprising that Bach's score was never used at his court. 1 

At this time the composer was also deeply engrossed in his work on 
the first set of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Such creative activities helped 
to heal the wound inflicted by Barbara's death and made Bach ready to 
face the necessity for establishing a new home. Remarrying after a very 
short lapse of time was the general custom in his family (and indeed in his 
time), and it proves Bach's deep attachment to Barbara that he waited 
from June 1720 to December 1721 before entering holy matrimony again. 
His bride, Anna Magdalena Wilcken, the daughter of a court trumpeter, 
then 20 years old, was descended from musicians on both paternal and 
maternal sides; and in her own right she was an excellent soprano singer, 
who since the autumn of 1720 had been employed by the Cothen court, 
where she had appeared as a guest as early as 171 6. The young singer 
retained her position after she married the court conductor, and earned 
half as much as her husband. The disparity in age between the girl of 20 
and the man of 36 was balanced on the other hand by their common 
profession. Magdalena may well have been more interested in operatic 
music than her husband (it was her youngest son who was the only one of 
Sebastian's children to become a successful opera composer), but she was 
certainly able to appreciate Sebastian's greatness, and young enough to 
adopt his own artistic creed. When she started her married life, Magdalena 
must have been afraid of her new responsibilities, which included looking 
after four stepchildren, the eldest of whom was a girl only seven years her 
junior. We don't know how her young charges acted towards her. In the 
case of the eldest boy, Friedemann, then 11 years old, the possibility 
cannot be excluded that he resented seeing his mother supplanted by a 
stranger, and that this experience contributed to the shaping of his very 
problematical personality. But while we are in the dark as to her step- 
children's attitude, we do know that for her husband Magdalena succeeded 

1 When the Margrave died in 1734, the autograph of the six Brandenburg Concertos 
was valued at 24 gr., a little less than a dollar. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN COTHEN (1717-1723) l6l 

in creating a cheerful, comfortable home. Visiting musicians and an end- 
less stream of kinsfolk were received cordially, and felt happy with the 
Sebastian Bachs. Magdalena knew the secret of enjoying the simplest 
pleasures with all her heart. Once when she received a present of six 
carnation plants, she 'treasured them more highly than children do their 
Christmas presents and tended them with the care usually bestowed on 
babies.' 1 This disposition helped her a great deal in a life that was filled 
to the brim with the duties of running a large household most thriftily, a 
life in which she had to go through the ordeal of child-bearing thirteen 
times, and seven times saw a child of hers carried to the grave. How 
Sebastian on such occasions tried to instil courage into her suffering heart 
is revealed in Magdalena's music book, which he presented to her in 1725. 
Three times he wrote into it a different version of his aria based on Paul 
Gerhardt's hymn 'Fret not, my soul, on God rely,' meant to lift her out 
of the day's turmoil with simple and deeply felt music. The little book 
also contains a song which Sebastian clearly intended for his wife: 

If thou be n'ear, I go rejoicing 
To peace and rest beyond the skies, 
Nor will I fear what may befall me, 
For I will hear thy sweet voice call me, 
Thy gende hand will close my eyes. 

The sincerity and warmth of the composer's feelings are evident to any- 
one listening to the heartfelt tune. Most likely the poem too was by Sebas- 
tian, who found it quite natural to link an expression of love to the idea 
of death. 

Whether Magdalena was able to follow him in such thoughts we do 
not know. Maybe she was too young and too firmly rooted in the material 
world to understand her husband's intense preoccupation with death. Yet 
she could not help delighting in the deep love expressed in such personal 
messages. This love, together with her genuine admiration of Sebastian's 
creative work, helped her through the many professional crises that Sebas- 
tian's stubbornness and pugnaciousness created for them through their 
29 years of married life. 

We know nothing of Magdalena's appearance. Her husband had her 
painted by Cristofori — at that time quite an unusual distinction for a 
woman of her social standing — but the portrait, which was listed in 
Emanuel's collection, has been lost. So we must content ourselves with the 
mental picture of a hard-working, warm-hearted, and highly musical 

1 Cf. the letters of Johann Elias Bach reproduced by Pottgiesser in 'Die Musik,' 



woman; a true helpmeet to her husband, glorying in his artistic achieve- 
ments, painstakingly copying his music in a handwriting which gradually 
assumed the features of Sebastian's own hand, and sharing with fortitude 
the burdens which life imposed on them. 

Shortly after they were married, the outward conditions of Bach's 
existence underwent a decisive change. Up to that time, as he stated in a 
letter to his old friend, Erdmann (cf. p. 180), he had intended to spend the 
rest of his life in the service of Prince Leopold. Now, however, the Prince 
gave up his bachelor existence and married a Princess of Anhalt-Bernburg. 
Even before the ceremony, the happy bridegroom had been so occupied 
with redecorating his quarters, creating a new 'princely guard,' whose 
exercises and parades he attended, and preparing for the festivities which 
were to last through five weeks, that he was unable to give much thought 
to music. And when things finally calmed down at Cothen, life assumed a 
different aspect. The young Princess was, according to Bach's verdict, an 
'amusa,' a person without love for music or art. Not only was she in her 
disposition quite unsuited to share her husband's greatest predilections, 
she was even unwilling to try. She was probably somewhat jealous of the 
court conductor's influence on the Prince, and anxious to break up this 
close relationship. Gradually music was removed from the centre of the 
Prince's activities and Bach felt neglected and somewhat superfluous. As 
months went by and Leopold maintained his 'somewhat lukewarm' atti- 
tude, his conductor began to ask himself whether under such conditions 
it was worth while to stay at the little court. Would not a position with 
wider responsibilities, in particular one where he could again serve the 
Lord in a church, and through the power of his music lead a large congre- 
gation towards Christ, give him deeper satisfaction? He had also to con- 
sider his boys; he was determined that they should enjoy the benefits of 
the University education of which he himself had been deprived. Thus he 
gradually began to familiarize himself with the idea that the secluded and 
secure existence in Cothen had only been a happy interlude ultimately 
to be exchanged for the weightier duties and inevitable struggles of 
a position in a more important musical centre. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 163 




Johannes (2) 

Johann (4) Christoph (5) 

1604-73 1613-61 

J. Egidius (8) 
1645-1716 J. Ambrosius (11) 

I 1645-95 

J. Bernhard (18) 

1 676- 1 749 

j J. Sebastian (24)= Anna Magdalena Wilcken 

J. Ernst (34) 1685-1750 1701-60 


Gottfr. Heinr. (48) 


J. Christ. Friedr. (49) 


J. Caroline 

Elisabeth J. F. J. Christian (50) Regine Susanna 

1726-81 1735-82 1742-1809 

m. J. C. Altnikol 

The manner in which Sebastian Bach received his appointment in Leip- 
zig supplies a leitmotiv for the 27 years he was destined to spend there. 
He offered his services reluctantly, and was accepted reluctantly, with 
Councillor Platz's comment, memorable for its very incongruity: 'Since we 
cannot get the best man, we shall have to be satisfied with a mediocre one.' 

When the great Johann Kuhnau died on June 5, 1722, the question of 
his successor in the post of the Leipzig Thomas Cantor occupied the minds 
of musicians all over the country. In Protestant Germany the position, 
combined as it was with the musical directorship of Leipzig's churches, 
enjoyed a very high prestige; for Leipzig at that time was a bastion of 
Protestantism, a city where religion was a living, driving force. 1 Ever 

1 The abundance of services offered in Leipzig was characteristic of the time. On 
Sunday, worship at St. Thomas' and St. Nicholas' occupied the greater part of the day. It 
started with early Matins, followed by the main service lasting from 7 to 11 a.m. Half an 
hour later the noon service took place, and at 1.30 p.m. vespers followed, which took up 
about 2 hours. On every weekday there was a service at 6.45 a.m. in one of the main 
churches and an hour of prayer in the afternoon. On Saturday at 2 p.m. a very important 
service was held in preparation for the communicants of the following Sunday. To dis- 
charge these extensive duties, no less than five ministers were officiating at St. Thomas' 
as well as at St. Nicholas'. The other churches, too, engaged a comparatively large 
amount of clergy to satisfy the spiritual needs of this city of 30,000 people. 


since its foundation in 1212 the Alumnate (choir-school) of St. Thomas' 
had supplied singers for the church services, and the venerable insti- 
tution could look back with pride on a line of great Cantors (among 
them the illustrious Johann Hermann Schein), whose creative work 
had greatly contributed to the growth of German music. The opening 
in Leipzig seemed to offer all that Bach had been missing in Cothen. 
Nevertheless it took Sebastian six months to make up his mind about 
the desirability of the position, and he was first mentioned as an appli- 
cant in December 1722. The reasons for his long pondering were 

From a previous visit to Leipzig in 1 717, and from his intercourse with 
Kuhnau, Bach was fully aware that the Thomas Cantor's position was 
altogether different from his present one. While the Cothen Kapell- 
meister had to comply with the wishes of a single patron, the Thomas 
Cantor had something like two dozen superiors. In his educational work 
he had to conform to the ruling of the rector of the school. But the 
running of the institute was in the hands of the City Council, consisting 
of three burgomasters, two deputy burgomasters, and ten assessors; and 
it was this body of fifteen which engaged the Thomas Cantor and kept a 
check on all his activities. Finally, there was the ecclesiastical authority of 
the Consistorium, which was responsible for the services in the churches, 
and became therefore the chief arbiter in all matters concerning the music 
to be offered by the Thomas Cantor in his capacity as church music 
director. To be dependent on these different governing bodies, which, as 
might be imagined, would not always live in perfect harmony, did not 
seem too pleasant a prospect for any man, least of all for one who had so 
little of the diplomat in his character. There was also the matter of social 
rank, to which Sebastian was by no means insensitive. According to the 
general view, a court conductor was on a higher social level than a Cantor, 
and Sebastian found it somewhat strange (as he admitted to his old friend, 
Erdmann) to climb down the ladder. As to financial considerations, he 
did hope to earn more in Leipzig than in Cothen, but the former pleasant 
feeling of security would be lacking. The basic salary in Leipzig was low, 
not more than 100 fl. a year, less than one-fourth of what Prince Leopold 
paid his conductor. To it were added the Accidentien, a certain percentage 
of the statutory fee for funerals, weddings, etc., and one-fourth of the 
weekly tuition fee of six pennies which the boarders had to pay, and which, 
when lacking funds, they collected every week from charitable families. 
The Cantor's income might grow out of pennies and farthings to the sum 
of 700 thalers, but there was no certainty about it; and when 'a healthy 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 165 

wind was blowing' 1 and the death-rate went down, the receipts showed a 
sad decline. 

Anna Magdalena Bach may have felt even more reluctant than her 
husband to go to Leipzig. At Cothen she held a good position as court 
singer, which brought her a yearly salary of 200 thalers. In Leipzig she 
would be deprived of an artistic career and an income of her own. The 
wife of the Thomas Cantor would have to lead a very secluded and un- 
obtrusive existence. She might enjoy singing Sebastian's music in the 
privacy of their own home, but it would be utterly out of the question for 
her to undertake a solo in a church, in which women were not allowed to 
perform. Thus to the young singer the removal to Leipzig would mean 
the renunciation of any professional activity of her own. 

And yet, in spite of such various misgivings, Sebastian was drawn 
towards the new position. At St. Thomas', and subsequently at the re- 
nowned University of Leipzig, his gifted sons would be given the right 
kind of education, which provincial Cothen was unable to offer. He him- 
self would be in entire charge of the church music of an important city, 
and would thus be able to make his ideas for its improvement become 
reality. Tremendous forces within him urgently sought release in the 
composition of sacred music, forces which burst forth triumphantly in the 
'Passion according to St. John' which he was writing for Leipzig. After 
months of wavering, the voices of caution were silenced, and Bach, 
driven by his daemon, decided on the Leipzig position in order to fulfil 
his artistic destiny. 

In the six months since Kuhnau's passing, the Leipzig Council had 
been singularly unsuccessful in their attempts to secure a suitable Thomas 
Cantor. At first matters had seemed to shape just perfectly. Among the 
six applicants was Georg Philipp Telemann, newly appointed Music 
Director and Cantor of Hamburg; from his former activities as organist of 
Leipzig's New Church, as a composer of, and singer in, popular operas, 
and as an extremely successful conductor of a Collegium Musicum, he 
was very dear to the Leipzig citizens. The Council was delighted to 
acquire so spectacular a musician and, the day after he had conducted a 
cantata of his own composition in Leipzig, 2 voted unanimously for 
his appointment. Telemann, noticing Leipzig's eagerness, managed 
to obtain important concessions. He caused the city fathers to waive 

1 Cf. Bach's letter to Erdmann of 1730, in which he complained about this, for him, 
unfavourable wind. 

2 The Council even printed the libretto of this cantata for the use of the 


one part of the Thomas Cantor's statutory duties, viz. the teaching 
of Latin in certain classes, and he secured the musical directorship of the 
University Church. Armed thus with all the requirements necessary for a 
satisfactory position in Leipzig, he returned to Hamburg to press for a 
higher salary. His policy proved successful, and the badly disappointed 
Leipzig Council had to continue their search. Yet when Sebastian Bach 
made his application in December 1722 he was not considered the most 
desirable of the candidates. There was Christoph Graupner, who, as a 
former pupil of St. Thomas' and the highly renowned conductor of the 
Prince of Hesse's orchestra in Darmstadt, seemed much better qualified. 
Graupner was invited to direct the Christmas music (including a Magni- 
ficat of his own), and some weeks later to conduct a cantata, all of which 
he did with so much success that the position was offered him. But 
Leipzig had bad luck again, for this desirable candidate was also unable to 
accept. The Prince of Hesse firmly refused to let his conductor go, and 
as he added very strong arguments in the form of a rise of salary and a 
munificent gift, Graupner was not too reluctant to stay in Darmstadt. He 
explained the situation to the Leipzig Council and warmly recommended 
Bach as a musician as competent on the organ as he was in directing church 
and orchestra music. By the time the letter arrived, it was outdated by the 
recent events. Bach was no longer a stranger to the Leipzig community. 
He had performed the required 'trial cantata' of his own, probably singing 
the bass solo himself, 1 and he had, moreover, presented his St. John 
Passion on Good Friday. The Council was now determined to engage 
Bach in the event of Graupner's refusal. 

Their initial lack of enthusiasm for the Cothen candidate is not hard 
to understand. Bach's tremendous fame as an organist did not count for 
much, as the Thomas Cantor was not supposed to play this instrument. Of 
Bach's creative work the Council could know nothing, for no composition 
of his except the two Miihlhausen cantatas had ever been printed. In the eyes 
of the Leipzig authorities, a candidate's present position was of paramount 
importance, and it cannot be denied that the conductor of the tiny court 
of Cothen enjoyed less prestige than the Hamburg or Darmstadt music 
directors. Finally, Bach seemed inferior to the majority of former 
Thomas Cantors by his lack of a University education. Kuhnau, for 
instance, had been a successful lawyer before being appointed to St. 
Thomas', and had published masterly translations from the Greek and 

1 It was the Cantata No. 22, Jesus nahm \u sich die Zwolfe, in which the bass solos 
are unusually high, in accordance with the composer's own voice. Cf. Schering, 'J. S. Bach 
und das Musikleben Leipzigs im 18. Jahrhundert,' Leipzig, 1941. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 167 

Hebrew. Compared with him, Sebastian Bach could hardly be called 
erudite. On the other hand, the Council was thoroughly tired of the un- 
settled conditions that had prevailed since Kuhnau's death, in which the 
church music had suffered, and so it was willing to engage Bach. This 
time, however, they wanted to take precautions against another failure, 
and Bach was requested to supply a letter of dismissal from his patron 
before the final election took place. Prince Leopold, though grieved at his 
conductor's decision, was certainly not going to put any obstacles in his 
way, and wrote a very gracious testimonial for the 'respectable and 
learned J. S. Bach.' Another point of contention between the various 
candidates and the Council was removed by Sebastian's pledge either to 
instruct the pupils in Latin or to remunerate another teacher undertaking 
the work in his stead. When all difficulties were thus overcome, the 
formal election took place on April 22, 1723. The minutes of the meeting 
are significant. Burgomaster Dr. Lange, who had conducted the negotia- 
tions, did his best to make the appointment palatable, mentioning Bach's 
excellence on the clavier, and even venturing to declare that 'If Bach 
were chosen, Telemann, in view of his conduct, might be forgotten.' 
The other Councillors followed his lead, but they stressed, as the main 
point in the candidate's favour, his willingness to teach Latin and to study 
the Latin catechism with the pupils. It was characteristic that although the 
city fathers had naturally all attended Bach's trial performances, only one 
referred to him as a composer, and this with the sole object of empha- 
sizing that his church music (the dramatic expressiveness of which the 
St. John Passion had clearly demonstrated) should not be 'too theatrical,' 
a stipulation which was promptly included in the contract. 

Bach, determined now to get the position, signed whatever was 
requested of him; he also promised meekly not to leave town without the 
permission of the Burgomaster (with the mental reservation that he would 
break such a pledge whenever necessary). He then passed the requisite 
theological examination, and was declared fit for the office of Thomas 

Before these irrevocable steps were taken, fate seemed to give Bach a 
last chance of staying on in idyllic Cothen. The Princess, whose lack of 
love for music Bach had so deplored, died on April 3, and the conductor 
could have expected to see the old state of affairs revived. But his was a 
nature not easily turned off a path once chosen. It had been a long and 
arduous struggle to make up his mind; now, however, he was ready for a 
new adventure, and ten days after the Princess's death, on April 13, 1723, 
the bereaved husband signed the letter of dismissal for his conductor. 


Nevertheless, their close friendship persisted, and in spite of his many- 
new duties, Bach found time to visit Cothen regularly for some fine music- 
making, especially that in celebration of Leopold's birthday on December 
10. He had the joy of seeing his Prince united two years later to a music- 
loving wife; for her birthday he wrote the cantata Steigt freudig in die 
Luft, which he performed with his Leipzig singers, while Prince Leopold 
took over the important bass solo in the tradition of their former delightful 
days. When the Prince's son was born in 1726, Bach dedicated to the 
infant his first clavier partita, and even coaxed his Muse into writing a 
dedicatory poem for the baby. These pleasant ties were tragically severed 
by Leopold's sudden death in November 1728. Bach came to Cothen for 
the last time to perform an imposing funeral music on the night of March 
23, 1729, when the body was interred, and another cantata on the following 
day, when the funeral sermon was preached. 1 Under Leopold's successor 
the orchestra declined steadily, until even its last five members were dis- 
missed. Clearly Bach had done the right thing when he decided not to tie 
his fate to the little principality. 

On June 1, 1723, the new Cantor was formally installed at St. Thomas'. 
Various addresses were given, music was sung by the pupils, and the new 
official responded in a dignified speech promising to serve a 'Noble and 
Most Wise Council' to the best of his abilities. There was, however, a 
slightly discordant note in the ceremonies, typical of the state of affairs in 
Leipzig. The Consistorium had requested the pastor of St. Thomas' to 
welcome the new Cantor in the name of the church authorities. This act 
of courtesy did not please the town officials, who considered the installa- 
tion of the Cantor their prerogative and claimed that never before had a 
church official been designated for such a ceremony. A discussion ensued 
that was subsequently continued in a lengthy correspondence. The new 
Cantor may have been somewhat perplexed by this incident; however, 
he could not learn too quickly that henceforth he would have to deal 
with a host of officials, all of whom, minor as well as major, insisted on the 
full recognition of their vested rights. To find a path through the maze of 
prerogatives and conventions determining the work of the various city 
and church employees, and to learn how to observe the countless un- 
written rules, seemed almost a full-time occupation, and there was so 
much else for the new Cantor to do ! He found the school in a shocking 

1 Cf. Smend, 'Bach in Kothen,' Berlin, 195 1. The connection with the Cothen 
court was not severed even after Sebastian's death. When Friedemann's daughter, 
Friederica Sophia, was christened on February 15, 1757, two members of the princely 
house of Anhalt-Cothen were among the godparents. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 169 

state of disorganization. Rector Johann Heinrich Ernesti, a weak and tired 
man of 71, had for years been unable to control either pupils or teachers, 
and the standard of the institute had steadily declined. The students 
consisted of a number of paying day scholars and some fifty-two founda- 
tion scholars, mostly sons of poor parents who on account of their musical 
talent were admitted as boarders for a nominal payment. Many of these 
boys had not received a good upbringing at home, and a firm hand was 
needed to keep them in decent discipline. This unfortunately the rector 
did not possess. Furthermore, it was almost impossible to obtain good 
order in a building that had hardly been altered since its erection in 1554, 
and was now completely outdated and overcrowded. There was not even 
a separate bed available for each boarder, and one classroom had to 
accommodate three classes at the same time, besides serving as a dining- 
room. The pupils' schedule was bound to fill Bach with even greater 
concern. The few capable musicians were sadly overworked and unable 
to keep their voices in good condition. The pupils had to accompany 
every funeral (except those of the very poor) singing hymns — rain, storm, 
or snow making no difference; and who could suggest a change in these 
conditions, when the fee for funerals meant so much to pupils and 
teachers? From New Year's Day to the middle of January all the Thomas- 
ians sang daily in the streets, naturally often in bad weather, in order to 
attract charitable contributions ; and again nobody dared raise his voice 
against this lucrative old custom. Fatigued, poorly fed, and badly housed, 
these pupils easily succumbed to illness, and contagious diseases spread 
rapidly in the unsanitary, overcrowded school building. 

Between the teachers relations were not too harmonious. Indeed it was 
a turbulent and rather frightening world for which Sebastian Bach had 
surrendered the idyllic seclusion of the Cothen court. 

He had to live in the very midst of it. His quarters, occupying the left 
wing of the school building, 1 had a separate entrance; yet his sanctum, the 
Componierstube, traditionally reserved for the Cantor's creative work, was 
separated from the classroom of the sixth form by only a plaster wall. 
How much concentration must it have required not to hear the loud 
voices of his young neighbours ! Yet even such little privacy as this was 
not granted him continuously. Every fourth week, for the 7 full days, the 
Cantor had to serve as inspector, maintaining discipline from 4 or 5 a.m., 
according to the season, when the boarders rose, through prayers, 

1 It was inevitable that Sebastian should bring disease germs from the school into 
his own quarters, and this was probably the main cause of the death of so many of 
Anna Magdalena's babies. 


meals, and lessons, up to 8 p.m., when it was his duty to check all the lights 
after the boys had retired. These thirteen weeks a year (sometimes even 
more if one of the other high-ranking teachers was not available) meant 
work of the most uncongenial kind. They unsettled Sebastian's creative 
activity and called for a special expenditure of nervous energy, inasmuch 
as the maintenance of discipline did not come easily to a man of his 
quick temper. Fortunately the other extramusical work was negligible. 
As Bach's Latin classes were taken over by a colleague, for a sum of 50 
thalers paid by the Cantor, he had only to teach Luther's Latin catechism 
once a week, which could not have been a burden to one so fully con- 
versant with and interested in the Protestant dogma. 

The bulk of his duties were of an artistic nature and were covered by 
the title 'Director musices,' which Bach always used with his signature, 
thus stressing that it was the one he held to be important. He was respon- 
sible for the musical programme in all the municipal churches, two of 
which, St. Thomas' and St. Nicholas', had very elaborate music on Sun- 
days, especially during the main service, which lasted for four hours. 1 The 
main musical work was the cantata, performed alternately at St. Thomas' 
and St. Nicholas' by the best singers of the school (the so-called 'first 
Cantorei) and conducted by the Cantor himself, while the performance of 
the preceding motet and the direction of music in the other three churches 
was entrusted to senior students appointed as assistant conductors. Of the 
two churches, Bach preferred St. Thomas'. The organ had recently been 
repaired, and the building itself remodelled, and the church was con- 
sidered, according to a chronicler of the time, 'one of the most elaborate 
and beautiful places of worship in existence . . . adorned with an exquisite 
and costly altar.' The music director was particularly pleased with the 
very convenient wooden galleries placed on the left and right of the organ. 
While the choir stood in front of the instrument, the galleries accommo- 
dated the instrumentalists and were admirably suited for double choirs, 
inspiring Bach to use them, for instance, in the St. Matthew Passion. In 

1 Bach noted the order of Divine Service on the tide-page of his Cantata No. 61. His 
aide-memoire reads as follows: 

*i. [Organ] prelude; 2. Motet; 3. Prelude on the Kyrie, which is [afterwards] performed 
throughout in concerted music; 4. Intoning before the altar; 5. Reading of the Episde; 
6. Singing of the Litany; 7. Prelude on the chorale [and singing of it]; 8. Reading of the 
Gospel; 9. Prelude on [and performance of] the main music work; 10. Singing of the 
Credo; 11. The Sermon; 12. Singing of several verses of a hymn; 13. Words of Institution 
[of the Sacrament]; 14. Prelude on [and performance of] the composition [2nd part of the 
cantata]. Afterwards alternate preluding and singing of chorales to the end of the 
Communion, and so on.' 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 171 

addition to the large organ, there was a small instrument placed high up 
on the altar wall, which seemed to Bach to symbolize heavenly tunes. He 
liked to use it for special effects, such as the insertion of German Christmas 
chorales into the Latin Magnificat performed at Christmas, or the playing 
of the cantus firmus in the first chorus of the St. Matthew Passion. The 
church of St. Nicholas' had no such advantages and the choir-loft was 
smaller. Bach therefore avoided it for more elaborate works. When his 
St. John Passion had to be produced there in 1724, he insisted energeti- 
cally on some repairs being carried out so as to have more space available 
for his performers. On the other hand, the organ at St. Nicholas' was more 
powerful, and Bach preferred to use it for works in which the organ is 
treated as a solo. Either at St. Thomas' or at St. Nicholas' a new cantata 
adapted to the special liturgical requirements of the day had to be offered 
on every Sunday and all the feast-days of the ecclesiastical year. The only 
exceptions were the last three Sundays of Advent and the five Sundays of 
Lent; but these provided no real rest-period for conductor and per- 
formers, since particularly ambitious and extensive programmes had to be 
prepared for Christmas and Easter (two performances each on December 
24, 25, 26, as well as on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday). As 
to the works performed, the majority were composed by the music 
director himself. Bach threw himself into this part of his duties with 
breath-taking vigour. Of cantatas alone he supplied, according to 
Forkel's statement, five complete sets for the entire ecclesiastical year, 
295 different works in all. Even if we grant that a few of these were older 
compositions or rearrangements of secular music, we may still accept as a 
fact that Bach composed an average of one cantata per month up to 1744. 
And besides cantatas he had to provide Passions for Good Friday, motets 
for important funerals, 1 and festive compositions for the yearly inaugura- 
tion of the new City Council, as well as for other special events, such as 
visits from royalty, etc. The first Christmas at Leipzig gives a good idea 
of the creative fury that possessed Bach. On each of the three feast-days he 
offered a new cantata, 2 while in the vesper service his new Magnificat was 
performed; in spite of this he had another composition ready for New 
Year's Day. 

The other civic churches, using the inferior singers of the school, 

1 For instance, shortly after his arrival in Leipzig, he was called on to compose music 
for the commemoration service held for the wife of a high official. It is likely that the 
motet Jesu, meine Freude was written for this occasion. 

2 Schering, I.e., conjectures that the third cantata (No. 64) may have been the arrange- 
ment of another composer's work, although the final chorus is certainly by Bach. 


called for little work by the music director, except in the allotment of the 
performers to the different groups, which were continually fluctuating in 
numbers or competence owing to illnesses or other causes. 1 

In addition to the directorship in the four civic churches, it was im- 
portant for Bach to have charge of the music at St. Paul's as well. This was 
the University church, which in former times had offered services only 
on the high feast-days and the quarterly solemn orations, on which occa- 
sions the Thomas Cantor had been responsible for the music. But from 
1710 onwards the University, in addition to this 'Old Service, 5 in- 
augurated a 'New Service' for every Sunday, and Kuhnau had had some 
difficulties in securing the musical directorship of this, as the University 
wanted to be as independent as possible of town officials. It was only by 
undertaking to do the additional work without further payment that 
Kuhnau eventually achieved his aim. After his death, J. G. Gorner, a 
former organist of St. Paul's, filled the position temporarily, and he had 
been far-sighted enough to refrain from asking for a remuneration. This 
impressed the University officials so favourably that they graciously 
acceded to his subsequent application and, a few weeks before Bach's 
appointment, they conferred on him the Directorship of the 'New 
Service,' while reserving the 'Old Service' for the Thomas Cantor. Bach 
was anything but pleased about this turn of events. The University 
appointment was not only important because of financial considerations; 
it was also useful for establishing contacts with University students per- 
forming at St. Paul's, who might be willing to help the music director on 
other occasions. Bach, convinced that the position ought to be his by 
precedent, valiantly strove to regain it. On his settlement in Leipzig he 
immediately started work at St. Paul's by providing beautiful music for 
Whitsunday, May 10, which happened to occur even before he was 
formally installed in his new office. He continued in this way through the 
following three years, offering his services for as many as eleven festive 
occasions. The University was not displeased with this state of affairs, but 
when it came to paying, Bach was unable to obtain the statutory stipend. 
After many discussions he was given half of what constituted the former 
salary due to the Cantor from the University, while the rest went to 
Gorner. Some 14 thalers were withheld, but this seemed important 
enough to Bach to justify direct appeals to the highest authority, Augustus 

1 They were the church of St. Peter and the 'New Church.' In the latter more 
elaborate music was performed on holy days and during the Leipzig Fair. For this the 
church organist was responsible (on Bach's arrival, G. B. Schott, and after 1729, J. G. 
Gerlach) and he had the help of University students and professional musicians. 


'the Strong,' Elector of Saxony. If it appears rather surprising to us that 
the master should have bothered his monarch with such petty details, we 
must not forget that the Cantor's income was made up of small items, 
careful attention to which provided the difference between an adequate 
and an insufficient sustenance. Moreover, it was not in Bach's nature to 
put up with what he felt to be unjust. So he dispatched three petitions to 
the Elector in the last months of 1725; the third, a masterwork of logical 
presentation and clarity of diction, amounted to some 3000 words. He 
asked for the restitution of the legal emoluments and for the directorship 
of both the Old and the New Service. The monarch acceded to the first 
request, but gave the University freedom to settle the 'New Service' in 
whatever way they wanted. Bach got the outstanding money, but as it had 
become apparent that the University would not let him have the director- 
ship of both services, he lost interest in St. Paul's and henceforth had the 
music for the 'Old Service' conducted by his prefects. On the other hand, 
his energetic action had not exactly endeared him to the academic authori- 
ties; from the outset they had looked down on the new Cantor's lack of 
academic training (a shocking state of matters that had not occurred in 
Leipzig during the past century!), and they now did their best to bypass 
Bach whenever a special composition was required for a festive occasion, 
thus depriving him of not insignificant fees. 

Their hostile attitude is best illustrated by an incident that happened 
two years later. In September 1727 there occurred the death of Christiane 
Eberhardine, wife of the Elector of Saxony, who was dearly beloved in 
Lutheran Leipzig because she had remained faithful to the Protestant 
religion when her husband adopted Catholicism in order to gain the 
Polish throne. To express the prevailing emotion, an aristocratic Univer- 
sity student, Hans Carl von Kirchbach, volunteered to hold a commemo- 
rative service in the University church at his own expense, in which he 
was to deliver the funeral oration. When he was given permission for this 
act of loyalty, he commissioned the poet, Johann Christoph Gottsched, to 
write a funeral Ode, and Bach to compose it. He could certainly not have 
made a wiser choice — although this was by no means the opinion of the 
learned professors. Their colleague, Gottsched, a great reformer of the 
German language, was eminently suitable, but his Ode, they contended, 
should be set to music by Gorner. When Kirchbach refused this sugges- 
tion, claiming that Bach had already done the work, he was informed that 
the composer would not be allowed to perform the music, as this was 
Gorner' s duty. In high irritation, the young nobleman threatened to give 
up the whole project, whereupon a compromise was reached. Gorner was 


to receive a present of 12 thalers from the student, and Bach was to sign a 
pledge that he would never again make an agreement concerning music 
at St. Paul's without previously obtaining the consent of the University. 
The first part of this arrangement worked out satisfactorily: Gorner 
received his money and was content. But as to the pledge, the University 
official dispatched to Bach's lodgings to obtain the signature of the docu- 
ment had no success; the Cantor refused in no uncertain words to sign it. 

There was one brighter aspect to this unpleasant episode: young 
Kirchbach's insistence on Bach's composition. While to the erudite 
professors the work of a third-rate musician like Gorner (who, as Bach 
once shouted in a fit of fury, 'would have done better as a cobbler' 1 ) 
seemed in no way inferior to that of Bach, the young people fell under the 
spell of the great man at St. Thomas'. They were anxious to secure his co- 
operation, when they prepared musical entertainment for some special 
occasion, and several of Bach's secular cantatas owe their existence to such 
commissions. 2 What was even more important, gifted University students 
were attracted by his genius and took part in the church music directed by 
him. We know, for instance, from a testimonial Bach wrote for C. G. 
Wecker, subsequently Cantor at Schweidnitz, that this student of law 
gave him 'creditable assistance' both as a singer and instrumentalist. 
Young J. G. Gerlach, who had graduated from the Thomas School in 
1723, was also a valuable helper, whom Bach rewarded by recommending 
him successfully for the position of organist and music director at Leipzig's 
'New Church.' 3 

Thanks to such talented and enthusiastic aides, not forgetting Bach's 
own three sons, who were gradually developing into first-class musicians 
in their own right, the master was able to carry out one of the most 
ambitious projects of his whole career. On Good Friday, 1729, his St. 
Matthew Passion had its first performance at St. Thomas'. The body of 
executants must have seemed quite enormous compared to those usually 
employed in Leipzig's churches. The parts used in a subsequent per- 
formance under Bach's direction have been preserved, and they show that 
17 players were employed for each orchestra, 12 singers for either of the 
two choruses, and a third group of 12 vocalists for the chorale in the first 

1 Cf. C. L. Hilgenfeldt, 'J. S. Bach's Leben, Wirken und Werke,' 1850. Bach had 
plenty of opportunity of seeing Gorner at work, as the latter was his subordinate as 
organist of St. Nicholas', a position which Gorner gave up in 1729 for a similar one at 
St. Thomas.' 

2 Cf. Friedrich Smend in AfMf, 1942. 

* Bach took Gerlach as soloist to Weissenfels in 1729, to take part in the celebration 
of Duke Christian's birthday, which certainly brought the young singer a handsome fee. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) I75 

number. In 1729 the number of singers was smaller, as the cantus firmus 
was not sung, but played on the little organ over the altar; nevertheless 
the groups of executants must have seemed unusually large to the 
Leipzig congregation. In spite of its considerable length (well over three 
hours), the Passion was performed within the framework of the tradi- 
tional Good Friday services, for which the following schedule was laid 
down: (1) 1.15 p.m. ringing of all bells; (2) the Hymn Da Jesu an dem 
Kreu^e stund sung by the choir; (3) Passion Music, first part; (4) Versicle, 
Herr Jesu Christy dich ^u wis wend; (5) Sermon; (6) Passion Music, second 
part; (7) Motet, Ecce quomodo moritur (Jacobus Gallus); Intonation of 
Passion Versicle, Collection; Hymn, Nun danket alle Gott. 

It is hard for us to-day to estimate Leipzig's response to the sublime 
work. Bearing in mind the pledge Bach had signed not to write operatic 
church music, it is to be feared that a good many listeners may have 
been confused, if not actually shocked, by the poignancy of this music. 1 

But whatever the response of the congregation may have been, it must 
be reported that neither the work itself, nor the tremendous achievement 
in presenting it in spite of countless obstacles, helped to impress Bach's 
superiors favourably. Their attitude is clearly reflected in an incident that 
happened in the very same year. Every spring new pupils were admitted 
to the Thomas school to replace those graduating. In May 1729, a few 
weeks after the performance of the St. Matthew Passion, Bach handed 
the Council a detailed list of the candidates he had examined, naming 
those he found suitable and unsuitable respectively, and the Rector 
seconded his recommendations. The wise city fathers, however, had their 
own opinions : they admitted four candidates the Cantor had warned 
against, one he had not even tested, and only five he had recommended. 
Apparently they were more interested in defying the Cantor than in 
obtaining good musicians for their church music. Nor was this an isolated 
episode. At a Council meeting a year later, the shortcomings of a certain 
Magister Petzoldt, Bach's deputy for the Latin classes, were under dis- 
cussion, and this led to complaints about the Cantor himself. 'He has not 
conducted himself as he should,' criticized one of the members; 'he is 
doing nothing,' complained another; while a third described him as 'in- 
corrigible.' Not a single voice was raised in Bach's defence; nobody even 

1 Bitter, Terry, and David-Mendel assume that the St. Matthew Passion is referred 
to in Gerber's story about the elderly lady who on hearing the Passion threw up her hands 
in horror, exclaiming: 'God help us. 'Tis surely an Opera-comedy.' Smend in 'Bach in 
Kothen' gives the entire quotation from Christian (not Heinrich Nikolaus) Gerber's 
'Geschichte der Kirchen-Ceremonien in Sachsen,' 1732. The present author agrees with 
Smend that the passage read in its entirety seems to point to Dresden rather than Leipzig 


mentioned the St. Matthew Passion or the brilliant festival Bach had 
arranged in June of that year for the bicentenary of the Augsburg Con- 
fession. Finally, it was decided to punish the Cantor for his many 
deficiencies by reducing his income. A change in the contractual salary or 
the statutory allotment of Accidentien was impossible, but the Council 
could, and did, restrict the offender's share in unexpected revenues. 1 

The city fathers' feeling of animosity towards Bach was heartily reci- 
procated by the Cantor. In August 1730, Sebastian, probably still un- 
aware of the punitive action planned against him, submitted a memo- 
randum in which he pointed out that the admittance of unsuitable pupils 
and the lack of adequate funds were jeopardizing his efforts to maintain 
the church music at a high level. The very title of the document, and the 
condescending manner with which all the details of an organization well 
known to the officials were explained in it, must have been irritating to 
the recipients: 

C A short, but indispensable sketch of what constitutes a well- 
appointed church music, with a few impartial reflections on 
its present state of decline 

'For a well-appointed church music, vocalists and instrumentalists are 
necessary. In this town the vocalists are provided by the foundation 
pupils of St. Thomas', and these are of four classes: trebles, altos, tenors, 
and basses. 

'If the choirs are to perform church music properly . . . the vocalists 
must again be divided into two classes: concertists [for the solos] and 
ripienists [for the chorus]. There are usually four concertists, but some- 
times up to eight if it is desired to perform music for two choirs. There 
must be at least eight ripienists, two to each part. . . . 

'The number of the resident pupils of St. Thomas' is fifty-five; these 
are divided into four choirs, for the four churches in which they partly 
perform concerted music, partly sing motets, and partly chorales. In three 
of the churches, i.e. St. Thomas', St. Nicholas', and the New Church, all 
the pupils must be musically trained . . . those who can only sing a chorale 
at need go to St. Peter's. 

1 The following instance reveals their policy. After the death of the old Rector in 
October 1729, and until a new official was installed, Bach had to conduct the school 
inspection every third, instead of every fourth, week. Later, when it came to allotting the 
Rector's very considerable share of Accidentien, the two other teachers who had taken 
over extra duties received sizable shares of this money, while Bach was left out and got 
nothing at all. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 177 

'To each choir there must belong, at least, three trebles, three alti, 
three tenors, and as many basses, so that if one person is unable to sing 
(which often happens, and particularly at this time of year, as can be 
proved by the prescriptions of the medicus sent to the dispensary), a motet 
can still be sung with at least two voices to each part. {N.B. How much 
better would it be, if it were so arranged as to have four singers available 
for each part, each choir thus consisting of sixteen persons!). Con- 
sequently, the number of those who must understand music is thirty-six 

'The instrumental music consists of the following performers: 

two or even 


violino I 

two or three 

violino II 

two each 

viola I, II, violoncello 


double bass 

two or three, 

according to 



one or two 






In all, eighteen persons at least, for the instruments. 

'N.B. Since church music is often composed with flutes ... at least 
two persons are needed for them; altogether, then, twenty instrumentalists. 
The number of players engaged [by the city] for church music is eight, 
viz. four town pipers, three professional violinists, and one apprentice. 
Discretion forbids my speaking at all truthfully of their competence and 
musical knowledge; however, it ought to be considered that they are 
partly emeriti and partly not in such good practice as they should be. 
This is the list of them . . . [viz. 2 trumpets, 2 violins, 2 oboes, and 1 
bassoon]. Thus the following important instrumentalists ... are lacking: 
two players each of first and second violin, viola, violoncello, and flute: 
one player of double bass. 

'The deficiency here shown has hitherto had to be made good partly 
by the University students, but chiefly by the Thomas pupils. The [Uni- 
versity] students used to be very willing to do this, in the hope that in 
time they might . . . receive ... an honorarium. But as the small payments 
which fell to them have been altogether withdrawn, the readiness of the 
students has likewise disappeared, for who will give his service for 
nothing? In the absence of more efficient performers, the second violin 
has been at most times, and the viola, violoncello, and double bass have 
been at all times played by the [Thomas] pupils, and it is easy to judge 
what has thus been lost to the vocal choir. So far only the Sunday music 
has been mentioned [which takes place alternately in St. Thomas' and St. 


Nicholas']. But if I come to speak of the holy days, when music must be 
provided for both the principal churches at the same time, the lack of the 
necessary players is even more serious, since then I have to give up . . . 
such pupils as can play one instrument or another, and thus am obliged 
to do without their assistance [as singers] altogether. 

'Furthermore, I cannot omit mentioning that through the admissions 
hitherto granted to so many boys unskilled and ignorant of music, the 
performances have necessarily . . . fallen into decline. A boy who knows 
nothing about music, who cannot even sing a second . . . can never be of 
any use in music. And even those who bring with them some elementary 
knowledge, do not become useful as quickly as is desirable. . . . However, 
no time is allowed for their training . . . but as soon as they are admitted, 
they are placed in the choirs. ... It is well known that my predecessors, 
Schelle and Kuhnau, were obliged to have recourse to the assistance of the 
[University] students when they desired to perform complete and well- 
sounding music, which they were so far warranted in doing that several 
vocalists, a bass, a tenor, and an alto, as well as instrumentalists . . . were 
favoured with salaries by a Most Noble and Wise Council, and thereby 
were induced to strengthen the church music. Now, however, when the 
present state of music has greatly changed — the art being much advanced 
and the taste definitely altered, so that the old-fashioned kind of music 
no longer sounds well in our ears — when, therefore, performers ought to 
be selected who are able to satisfy the present musical taste and undertake 
the new kinds of music, and at the same time are qualified to give satis- 
faction to the composer by their rendering of his work, now the few 
perquisites have been altogether withheld from the choir, though they 
ought to be increased rather than diminished. It is, anyhow, astonishing 
that German musicians should be expected to perform ex tempore any 
kind of music, whether Italian or French, English, or Polish, like some of 
those virtuosi who have studied it long beforehand, even know it almost 
by heart, and who besides have such high salaries that their pains and dili- 
gence are well rewarded. This is not duly taken into consideration, and 
our German musicians are left to take care of themselves, so that under 
the necessity of working for their bread many can never think of attaining 
proficiency, much less of distinguishing themselves. To give one instance 
of this statement, we need only go to Dresden and see how the musicians 
there are paid by his Majesty; since all care as to maintenance is taken from 
them, they are relieved of anxiety, and as, moreover, each has to play but 
one instrument, it is evident that something admirable and delightful can 
be heard. The conclusion is easy to arrive at: that in ceasing to receive 

). SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-I750) 179 

the perquisites I am deprived of the power of getting the music into 
a better shape. 

'Finally, I will list the present foundation pupils, stating in each case 
the extent of his musical skill, and leave it to further consideration 
whether concerted music can be properly performed under such condi- 
tions or whether a further decline is to be feared . . . [There follows a list 
of names under the headings 'those who are efficient,' 'those needing 
further training before they can take part in concerted music,' and 'those 
who are not musical at all']. Summa: 17 serviceable, 20 not yet serviceable, 
17 useless. Joh. Seb. Bach, 

Director Musices.' 
Leipzig, August 23, 1730. 

This is, indeed, a highly significant document. Not only does it offer 
valuable glimpses into the performing practice of the time; it reveals, too, 
the inflexible nature of its author and his lack of the graces of diplomacy 
which would have made life so much easier for him. Bach was angry with 
his superiors, and when he penned his report he did not try to hide his 
feelings under the flowery phrases of respect and submission which the 
exalted city officials deemed their rightful due. That he did master all the 
intricacies of polite letter- writing, and could use them if he so wished, is 
shown by other petitions to the Council. 1 This time, however, he went 
straight to the point with a bluntness that could only turn against him. It 
was also a tactical error to praise conditions at Dresden at the expense of 
Leipzig. Such a comparison was not quite fair, since Dresden, as the resi- 
dence of the Elector, naturally enjoyed privileges denied to other towns. 
It merely had the result of increasing the animosity of his superiors. 

Anyway, the Burgomaster, to whom he handed the report, was not at 
all impressed by it. He did not even mention it at the following meeting, 
and merely remarked that the Cantor 'showed little inclination to work.' 
No vote was taken regarding the payment to University students, for 
which Bach had pleaded so strongly. This must have angered him all the 
more as he was well aware that the Council was not as tight-fisted in 
dealing with another music director. Young Gerlach, who, at Bach's 
recommendation, had been appointed to the New Church, was granted 
in this same year a 100 per cent increase in his salary, and allowed 30 
thalers for the purchase of new instruments. It really looked as though the 

1 Cf. his letter dated September 20, 1728, in which he, for once, requested the City's 
help against a member of the Consistory, who had infringed Bach's right to choose the 
church hymns. 


Council were anxious to develop the musical service in this insignificant 
church at the expense of venerable St. Thomas' and St. Nicholas', 
which were under Bach's direction. 

All this caused Sebastian to investigate the possibilities of finding 
another position, and on October 28, 1730, he wrote to his old school- 
mate, Georg Erdmann, now settled as Imperial Russian 'resident' 
(ambassador) in Danzig, asking him whether he knew of any good 
opening there. He gave the following reasons for his wish to leave Leipzig: 
'Since I find (1) that this appointment is by no means as advantageous as 
it was described to me, (2) that many fees incidental to it are now stopped, 
(3) that the town is a very expensive place to live in, (4) that the authori- 
ties are very strange people, with small love of music, so that I live under 
almost constant vexation, jealousy and persecution, I feel compelled to 
seek, with God's assistance, my fortune elsewhere.' 1 

Reading this outburst, and bearing in mind the sublime masterpieces 
which Bach, alleged to 'have done nothing,' was pouring out over Leip- 
zig, one cannot help feeling outraged by the Council's attitude. However, 
it must not be overlooked that one of the main sources of Sebastian's feud 
with the authorities lay in the double aspect of his position. He was 
engaged as teacher (Cantor) and music director. To Bach only the music 
directorship mattered, while to the Council the duties of the Cantor 
seemed of paramount importance. The city fathers heard of lack of disci- 
pline at the school, of outbursts of fury on the part of the irascible Cantor, 
and of lengthy visits to various courts, for which he did not ask permission, 
and they knew that his prefects often took over the singing classes which 
he was supposed to hold. Other Cantors before him had taken similar 
liberties, but these had known how to ingratiate themselves by submissive 
and deferential behaviour, whereas this 'incorrigible' Bach acted with 
maddening presumptuousness. Altogether, it was one of those human 
relationships which defy a satisfactory solution; for the engagement of a 
composer at the peak of his creative productivity as school official and 
disciplinarian in a badly organized institute is a contradiction in itself. 
Bach would certainly have been better off at the court of an important 
sovereign, who would have expected nothing from him but musical com- 
positions. As no such opening presented itself, he was forced to remain in 

Fortunately the following years saw a slackening of the tension 

1 We do not know whether Erdmann, in answer to this appeal, did anything to find 
a congenial position for his old school-mate. Any plans he may have entertained for 
bringing Sebastian to Danzig were cut short by Erdmann's death in 1736. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) l8l 

between him and his official superiors. Johann Mathias Gesner, a good 
friend from Sebastian's Weimar days, for whom the Thomas Cantor had 
only recently written a cantata, 1 became Rector of the school, and with 
tact and discretion he calmed the waves of mutual indignation. Gesner is 
recognized to-day as one of the pioneers in the field of classical philology. 
Before him German scholars had been pedantically investigating trifles of 
antiquarian or grammatical interest; Gesner grasped the very spirit of 
antique culture and in his lectures and commentaries opened up new vistas 
to the German mind. This outstanding philologist was at the same time a 
born teacher, genuinely interested in young people, whose devotion he 
won by the power of his own humanity and enthusiasm. Thus he was 
perfectly suited for carrying out the long-needed reforms at the Thomas 
school. As soon as he started on his duties, he prevailed on the Council 
to make definite plans for a building programme. Before long two new 
storeys were added to the school, and though this entailed a good deal 
of inconvenience — all the teachers, including Bach, having to find tem- 
porary quarters outside the school — the result was well worth the trouble. 
The Rector also issued new regulations for the school, in which music 
was allotted an important place. He explained to the pupils that their 
praising the Lord through music linked them with the heavenly choirs 
and that he expected them to be proud of this privilege and even to sacri- 
fice leisure hours for the sake of good performances. More effectively than 
by such general advice and the listing of fines to be imposed on those 
neglecting their musical work, the Rector succeeded in improving the 
pupils' attitude by changing the general atmosphere in the school. It was 
a much happier group that now worked together at St. Thomas', and 
naturally in all fields better results were obtained. As for the Cantor, 
Gesner endeavoured to smooth out his differences with the Council. At 
the Rector's suggestion Bach was freed from any teaching assignments 
outside music and in their place was put in charge of the daily visits to the 
morning service, at which 8 choristers alternately provided the music at 
either St. Thomas' or St. Nicholas'. Gesner also induced the authorities to 
let the Cantor henceforth have his full share of all accruing moneys. Bach, 
on the other hand, could not but enjoy working with this outstanding 
Rector who really valued his musical work. This attitude of Gesner's is 
proved by a delightful description he offered of Bach's art both as 
virtuoso and conductor, sufficient in itself to endear the scholar to every 
music historian. Some years after leaving Leipzig he wrote a Latin com- 

1 It is the Italian Cantata No. 209 composed in celebration of Gesner's return to his 
native city. Cf. Luigi Ansbacher in 'Bach Gedenkschrift,' 1950. 


mentary to an edition of Quintilian's Institutio Oratorio, and used the 
mention of a cithara-player's versatility to plunge into this panegyric: 

'All these [outstanding achievements], my Fabius, you would deem 
very trivial could you but rise from the dead and see our Bach . . . how 
he with both hands and using all his fingers, plays on a clavier which seems 
to consist of many citharas in one, or runs over the keys of the instrument 
of instruments, whose innumerable pipes are made to sound by means of 
bellows; and how he, going one way with his hands, and another way, at 
the utmost speed, with his feet, conjures by his unaided skill . . . hosts of 
harmonious sounds; I say, could you but see him, how he achieves what 
a number of your cithara players and 600 performers on reed instru- 
ments 1 could never achieve, not merely . . . singing and playing at the 
same time his own parts, but presiding over thirty or forty musicians all 
at once, controlling this one with a nod, another by a stamp of the foot, 
a third with a warning finger, keeping time and tune, giving a high note 
to one, a low to another, and notes in between to some. This one man, 
standing alone in the midst of the loud sounds, having the hardest task of 
all, can discern at every moment if anyone goes astray, and can keep all 
the musicians in order, restore any waverer to certainty and prevent him 
from going wrong. Rhythm is in his every limb, he takes in all the har- 
monies by his subtle ear and utters all the different parts through the 
medium of his own mouth. Great admirer as I am of antiquity in other 
respects, I yet deem this Bach of mine to comprise in himself many 
Orpheuses and twenty Arions.' 

Such genuine admiration from a man of Gesner's intellectual stature 
must have warmed Bach's heart. Their intercourse may also have stimu- 
lated the master in other ways. In 173 1 appeared Gesner's outstanding 
Chrestomathia Graeca, and we can well imagine Bach discussing certain 
pieces with his learned friend and receiving much food for thought from 
the Rector's vision of antique glory. Gesner, incidentally, was not the only 
one in Leipzig who was responsible for new trends in the conception of 
the past. There was, for instance, Johann Friedrich Christ, Professor at 
the University, who opened the students' eyes to the all but forgotten 
beauties of antique sculpture and paintings. Bach may have heard about 
these lectures from his young University friends, and on his frequent visits 
to Dresden he had a chance to test the truth of Professor Christ's asser- 

1 The Latin expression Gesner uses is tibia, a Roman instrument somewhat in the 
character of an oboe. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-I750) 183 

tions by visiting the exquisite collections of antiques, which since 1728 
were being assembled there. 

By a fortunate coincidence the years of pleasant co-operation with 
Gesner also brought other improvements in Bach's position. He now had 
some excellent vocalists in his chorus, among them his favourite pupil, 
Johann Ludwig Krebs, 1 his first sopranist, Christoph Nichelmann, the 
gifted Christian Friedrich Schemelli, and several others. Moreover he was 
able to consolidate his connection with the University students by taking 
over, on the departure of G. B. Schott in 1729, a Collegium Musicum, 
founded in 1702 by Telemann for regular weekly performances of music 
in Zimmermann's Coffee-house. Leipzig had two associations of this kind, 
each numbering fifteen to twenty members, and as they were independent 
of the University authorities, there was nobody to prevent Bach from 
assuming the directorship. These Collegia Musica served a dual purpose: 
they kept musicians among the students in good training, and they helped 
them to obtain recognition and eventually a position. Visitors from out- 
side, especially during the Leipzig fair, thronged the two Coffee-houses 
to hear the young musicians display their virtuosity, and valuable contacts 
were established in this way. The direct financial returns for the players 
must have been insignificant, if we are to believe the remarks of the poetess 
Marianne von Ziegler: 2 'Most of the listeners seem to think that these 
sons of the Muses just extemporize the music; the reward they get is very 
poor indeed, and often they have to be content with a bare bone to pick 
for all the hours of preparation they have put in.' This may have been true 
for the students, but certainly not for Bach, who would not have directed 
the group for over ten years without receiving adequate financial com- 
pensation. Zimmermann, the owner of the establishment, would have paid 
him a considerable honorarium, which the astute business-man amply 
recovered by the afflux of guests, who consumed great quantities of his 
coffee, cake, or beer, while enjoying such artistic treats. In the summer the 
Collegium performed in Zimmermann's open-air restaurant outside the 
city, where works for a larger group, such as Bach's cantata 'Phoebus 
and Pan,' could be played. The work with the Collegium Musicum in- 
spired Bach to compose a number of delightful secular cantatas, but he 
did not by any means limit himself to the performance of vocal music. 
The Brandenburg Concertos, many other chamber music works, and new 
compositions for keyboard instruments resounded at Zimmermann's 

1 He was a son of Johann Tobias Krebs, Bach's student in Weimar. The older Krebs 
admired Bach so greatly that altogether he sent three of his offspring to St. Thomas.' 

2 This outstanding woman supplied 9 texts for Bach's Cantatas. 


together with compositions by other masters. And if Bach was in a good 
humour, he could be induced to improvise on the clavier, to the delight 
of the assembled guests. 

Many performances of the Collegium Musicum took place as an act of 
homage to the ruling monarch. In particular, the year 1733, when the 
Elector Augustus III succeeded his father, was distinguished by a series 
of such festive acts. Bach exerted himself by producing no less than four 
different cantatas during the period from August to December of that 
year in order to celebrate the name-day and birthday respectively of the 
new ruler as well as the birthdays of the Crown Prince and the Electress; 
and he continued with hardly diminished efforts in 1734. Yet all these 
contributions sink into insignificance when compared to the one monu- 
mental work he wrote for Augustus III. The new ruler's first visit to 
Leipzig, to accept the oath of allegiance, was celebrated with great pomp, 
and the City Council commissioned their Director Musices to write a 
Kyrie and Gloria to be performed on April 21, 1733, at St. Nicholas' before 
and after the festive sermon. 1 Bach, knowing that on this special occasion 
much of the usual liturgy in the service would be omitted and that, on the 
other <i hand, he would have more singers than usual at his disposal, 
supplied a Kyrie and Gloria surpassing the customary sacred music in 
every respect. The Kyrie was meant as mourning music for the deceased 
Elector, Augustus 'the Strong,' while the triumphant strains of the Gloria 
following the sermon celebrated the ascension to the throne of his heir. 
The Elector, as a Catholic, was, significantly enough, deprived of the joy 
of hearing this glorious music performed in his honour. However, Bach 
seems to have been encouraged by friends in Dresden to hope that a whole 
Mass of his composition might be played for the Coronation ceremony of 
Augustus III as King of Poland. 2 Thus he set about completing the 
gigantic composition, for which task he had ample leisure, as the mourn- 
ing period for the deceased Elector made the performance of 'figural' 
music in the Leipzig churches impossible. The Mass in b was handed to 
the Elector, but the composer's hope was not fulfilled. This meant a dis- 
appointment for Bach, but it may, on the other hand, have saved him a 
good deal of unpleasantness. For although at that time individual move- 
ments from the Mass, especially the Latin Kyrie and Gloria, still figured in 
the Protestant ritual, the composition of the complete Ordinary of the 

1 Cf. Schering, I.e., p. 217 and foil. Smend in 'J- S. Bachs Kirchenkantaten,' VI, 
assumes that the Credo from the Mass in b was performed as early as June 5, 1732, for the 
inauguration of the remodelled Thomas school. 

2 Cf. Schering in BJ, 1936. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-I750) 185 

Mass was tantamount to an invasion of Catholic territory. Bach himself 
apparently felt no scruples in this respect. His employers in Leipzig, how- 
ever, might have resented seeing their music director connected in so 
conspicuous a manner with the Coronation service in a Catholic church. 
Bach had good reasons for making continual efforts to prove his 
loyalty to the new ruler. He felt increasingly in need of the Elector's 
support as the situation in Leipzig was changing again. Rector Gesner had 
always cherished the wish to lecture at a University too, and as this 
apparently proved impossible in Leipzig, he accepted a call to the newly 
founded University of Gottingen, where he was to serve with the greatest 
distinction. He was succeeded in November 1734 by the former vice- 
principal of the school, Johann August Ernesti, a man only 27 years of 
age, who deservedly enjoyed a fine reputation as a classical scholar. In 
some respects he continued his predecessor's policy by raising the 
scholastic standard; but in his ambition to create an outstanding institute 
of learning, the young Rector saw in the students' musical duties nothing 
but an obstacle to the fulfilment of his plans. His attitude was not wholly 
unjustified. The type of school capable of serving both scholastic and 
musical purposes had become definitely outdated. The range of subjects 
to be studied was greatly widened in the 18th century, and with natural 
science playing an increasingly important part, it gradually became im- 
possible for the young people to cope with both their scholastic and musi- 
cal tasks. The Rector wanted to modernize his institute and hated to see 
his charges waste so much time by singing in the streets, attending funerals 
or weddings, and rehearsing for performances. His problem was further 
aggravated by the kind of music the Cantor expected the choir to sing; it 
often necessitated serious studying and additional rehearsals. All this dis- 
pleased the Rector exceedingly. He did not, like Gesner, compare the 
Thomasians to the angelic choirs. Instead, when he came across a boy 
practising his music, he would remark sneeringly: 'So it's a pothouse 
fiddler you want to become,' and thus make the performance of music 
seem an inferior kind of occupation. To work in harmony with so intoler- 
ant and ambitious a superior would have been hard for any musician; it 
was utterly impossible for Bach. Thus there was tension, more and more 
of it, until it burst out in a controversy which assumed terrific propor- 
tions and lasted through more than two years (during which time the two 
deadly enemies had to live next door to each other!). The incident pro- 
voking it was petty, and the details need not concern us to-day. It had 
to do with the appointment of musical prefects, those senior pupils who 
took over much of the Cantor's duties and whose satisfactory work was 


of vital importance to a smoothly running musical organization. Bach's 
top prefect provoked the Rector by punishing a recalcitrant young pupil 
too severely, whereupon Ernesti, against Bach's wish, forced him to 
leave the school. The Rector then promoted another prefect to the first 
place, a youth whom the Cantor declared unfit for so responsible a posi- 
tion. Clearly the right was on Bach's side, as no one but he was supposed 
to judge a pupil's qualifications for the musical prefectship. Unfortunately, 
however, the hot-blooded Cantor damaged his own unassailable position 
by letting his temper run away with him. Shocking scenes occurred 
during the church services when Bach, seeing the hated prefect at work, 
chased him away with 'great shouting and noise,' whereupon Ernesti sent 
the youth back, threatening the whole choir with penalties if they sang 
under anybody else. Thus utter confusion reigned at St. Thomas', and the 
discipline built up with so much difficulty was carried off as in a whirl- 
wind. Bach, however, did not care for anything but the restitution of his 
rights, 'cost it what it might.' A stream of reports and appeals began to 
flow from both adversaries to the authorities. Bach's were a model of 
clearness dealing merely with the problem in question. Ernesti, on the 
other hand, not only blamed the Cantor for shirking his duties in various 
ways, but even contended that Bach was venal and accepted unsuitable 
candidates whose fathers were willing to make him a payment. Such a 
remark about Sebastian Bach, whose unshakable fairness and justice in 
the examination of organs had become a byword over all the country, 
shows best with what type of superior the Cantor had to deal. The Council 
and the Consistory, both of whom had received various appeals, found 
themselves in a most unpleasant situation — they did not care to offend 
Ernesti, of whom they thought highly, but on the other hand they could 
not help admitting the justice of the Cantor's complaints. Therefore they 
chose the old expedient of doing nothing, hoping that with the gradua- 
tion of the offensive prefect the storm would pass over. Ultimately Bach 
appealed to the highest authority, the Elector, who in 1736 had conferred 
on him the title of Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Court composer 1 
in gratitude for Bach's many musical homages, not forgetting the B minor 
Mass. It seems that the monarch, on a visit to Leipzig at which festive 
music by Bach was performed with the greatest pomp, personally inter- 

1 The title, which Bach had already solicited in 1733 when handing in the first 2 
movements of the Mass in b, was only conferred on him on November 19, 1736, after he 
had lost the minor title of conductor to the court of Weissenfels through the death of 
Duke Christian. Apparently Augustus III had waited so long because he did not care to 
be associated with a lower ranking ruler in the titles he awarded. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 187 

vened in favour of the composer, for thenceforth the feud at St. Thomas' 
is not mentioned in any official document. This does not mean, however, 
that either of the two parties forgot or forgave. Ernesti persevered in his 
anti-musical policy, and Bach grew less and less concerned with the 
duties of his office. Not only did he neglect his teaching assignments, but 
he did so to such an extent that in 1740 it became necessary to appoint a 
master for musical theory to the school. Even the stream of new com- 
positions for his choir diminished considerably at that time, and old works 
were performed in their stead. Bach was still deeply interested in the 
training of gifted musicians, but, significantly enough, such outstanding 
pupils as J. F. Agricola, J. F. Doles, J. P. Kirnberger, and J. C. Altnikol 
came to him as University students. Of talented pupils of the Thomas 
school practically nothing is known during these years: either there were 
none in the Alumnate, or Bach, knowing Ernesti's attitude, was not 
disposed to spend much of his time and energy on them. 

However, neglecting St. Thomas' did not mean a life of leisure for 
him; he continued to be an indefatigable worker, but one whose energies 
were directed towards different goals. As a composer he became less 
concerned with sacred music, perhaps because the spiritual climate of 
Leipzig was changing under the growing impact of 'Enlightenment. 5 Now 
he concentrated on instrumental composition; and he also paid more 
attention to the problems of publishing his music. His zest for travelling 
and meeting fellow musicians found satisfaction through frequent and 
well-paid invitations to test organs in various cities. He also spent a good 
deal of time at Dresden, appearing at court, giving organ recitals, and 
making music with the prominent court musicians, who also came to 
Leipzig to play at his home. 1 

A unique experience was granted him in a meeting with King 
Friedrich 'the Great' of Prussia. Since his second son, Emanuel, had been 
appointed in 1740 court accompanist to the enlightened and highly 
musical ruler, Bach was greatly interested in the Northern capital. It is 
probably his own opinion that is reflected in the remark of his secretary, 
J. Elias Bach, 2 that 'at Berlin the golden age of music seemed to be in- 
augurated.' Sebastian may even have entertained hopes of finding in 
Berlin the kind of position he was longing for. It is noteworthy, anyway, 
that as early as 174 1 he visited his son there. The time was not well chosen, 
for the King was involved in the first 'Silesian war' against Austria; besides, 

1 Cf. letter of Elias Bach to Cantor Koch, dated August 11, 1739, in 'Die Musik,' 

2 Cf. letter of Elias to J. Ernst Bach, dated January 9, 1742, I.e. 


Sebastian's sojourn had to be broken off because of a serious illness 
of Anna Magdalena; as a result, no appearance at court took place. The 
following years saw the monarch still mainly engaged in martial exploits, 
which even interfered with Bach's own life. In 1745 the Prussian armies 
laid siege to Leipzig, ruthlessly burning and ransacking the lovely 
countryside around it; and great was the distress of the Leipzig popula- 
tion. To raise their morale, Bach wrote, to the accompaniment of rumbling 
cannons, his powerful cantata Du Friedefurst, in which some inaccuracies 
in the continuo part and a score difficult to read in some places 1 testify 
to the peculiar conditions prevailing at the time of its composition. But 
Sebastian, a true son of the period, was not really concerned with the 
quarrels of the rulers, and once the danger was over and peace restored, 
he again planned an appearance at the Prussian court. This time conditions 
were much more propitious, since a distinguished friend of the Bachs had 
come to Berlin in 1746 as Russian ambassador. This was the Reichsgraf 
Hermann von Keyserlingk, 2 who had been stationed in Dresden from 1733 
to 1746, and had received from Sebastian the 'Goldberg Variations' for 
which he sent the composer a golden goblet filled with a hundred Louis 
d'or. The ambassador's enthusiastic praise of the Leipzig master naturally 
excited the Prussian king's curiosity, and so an invitation was extended 
through Emanuel. In the spring of 1747 Sebastian complied and came to 
Berlin, where he also had the joy of seeing his first grandson, Johann 
August, 3 born on November 30, 1745. 'Old Bach,' as the King spoke of 
him, was received most graciously. He had to try out all the fine forte- 
pianos built by Silbermann that were in the palace, and on each he dis- 
played his incredible mastery of improvisation. Finally he asked the King, 
who was a composer himself, to give him a subject of his own for a fugue. 
This Friedrich did, and Bach was so intrigued by the possibilities of the 
royal theme that on his return to Leipzig he wrote a truly royal set of 
polyphonic compositions in the strictest style based on this subject; he 
had them engraved under the title Das musikalische Opfer (Musical 
Offering) and dedicated them to the King. Having intercourse with, and 

1 Cf. preface to BG 24, pp. 26 and foil. 

2 Keyserlingk was also mainly responsible for the awarding to Sebastian of the title 
of Saxon court composer. In 1748 he was godfather to Emanuel's youngest son, Johann 
Sebastian. Friedemann dedicated a Sonata in E fiat major to him in 1763. 

3 It is likely that the 'Capellmeister Bach' mentioned as one of the child's god- 
fathers was Sebastian, but this does not necessarily imply that he attended the christening 
ceremony. Perhaps he was represented by someone else. The same applies to Anna 
Magdalena Bach, who is mentioned as godmother of Emanuel's second child, Anna Carolina 
Philippina, christened on September 12, 1747. Cf. Miesner in BJ, 1932. 

J. SEBASTIAN IN LEIPZIG (1723-1750) 189 

being so warmly applauded by, the great monarch gave intense satis- 
faction to Sebastian, and in this particular case he may not even have 
minded that no financial benefits were derived from the visit or the 
subsequent dedication. (Friedrich's account books, at least, make no 
mention of any payment to the guest from Leipzig.) 

The Berlin visit was the last great artistic success granted to Bach. 
Not long afterwards an old affliction of his began to assume threatening 
proportions. His eyesight had been poor for many years, and the constant 
strain of writing small music notes by candlelight finally exacted its toll — 
as it did with his kinsmen, Johann Gottfried Walther and Johann Ernst 
Bach (25). In 1749 Bach was nearly blind, and rumour had it that his 
health was badly impaired as well. Whether this was correct, whether he 
had had a stroke, as some historians conjecture, can no longer be verified; 
the Necrolog written by his own son, Emanuel, and his pupil, Agricola, 
certainly stressed that, apart from his eye-trouble, Bach had been physi- 
cally quite fit. But, whatever was the truth behind the rumours, they 
caused the writing of a letter to Leipzig's Burgomaster, in which the 
Dresden conductor, Johann Gottlob Harrer, was recommended for the 
vacancy expected to occur through Bach's death; and it was suggested 
that Harrer should prove his skill by giving a trial performance im- 
mediately. As the author of the letter was the all-powerful Saxonian 
minister, Count Bruhl, his suggestion amounted to an order. The good 
city fathers complied — whether or not with a feeling of guilt at this 
flagrant lack of reverence we don't know — and so it came about that 
in the inn of the 'Three Swans,' where secular concerts used to take place, 
Harrer on June 8, 1749, g ave a public performance of a church cantata 
he had brought with him, as a test piece for the 'future position of 
Thomas Cantor, if the director musices, Sebastian Bach, should pass away.' 
Thus a chronicler 1 records nonchalantly. Bach could not help hearing of 
the shameful incident. His fighting spirit was roused; he would prove to 
them that he was still in the possession of his strength. Tenaciously he 
continued the struggle for more than a year, and Harrer, dismayed and 
disappointed, had to go back to Dresden. At that time news of a visiting 
English oculist, who had performed amazing operations, spread through 
Germany. This Chevalier John Taylor happened to pass through Leipzig, 
and Bach resolved to entrust himself to the renowned surgeon. Taylor 
performed two operations on him, but they were both failures; moreover 
the various drugs administered shattered the master's whole system and 
he grew steadily weaker. On July 18, sight was suddenly restored to him, 

1 Johann Salomon Riemer, 'Chronik Leipzigs,' 1714-71, Ratsarchiv, Leipzig. 


but a few hours later a stroke occurred followed by a raging fever, to 
which he succumbed on July 28, 1750. Musicians and music lovers in 
Leipzig deeply mourned the loss. The City Council, however, in its next 
meeting, did not waste much time in eulogies on the departed composer. 
Some remarks were uttered such as 'the school needs a Cantor, not a 
conductor,' or 'Bach was certainly a great musician, but no school 
teacher/ and Harrer's appointment was formally decided on. Further- 
more, when Bach's widow applied for the customary payment of the 
Cantor's honorarium through the following half-year, the city accountant 
was smart enough to remember that Bach, when entering office 27 years 
previously, had received full payment for the first quarter, although he 
started work only in February; so the Council had the satisfaction of 
deducting 21 th. 21 gr. from the relief-sum due to the widow. The 
intractable Cantor was replaced by a man whose 'very quiet and accommo- 
dating nature' Count Briihl had emphasized, and the Council looked 
forward to a peaceful era at St. Thomas'. 



Our conception of Sebastian's appearance during his service at Leipzig 
was, until recently, based mainly on the portrait painted towards the end 
of his life by Elias Gottlieb Haussmann. 1 It shows a man of tremendous 
power and stubborn energy, whose face reveals the suffering, the dis- 
appointments, and the bitter fights which formed so decisive a part of his 
life as Thomas Cantor. This is the Bach with whom the Leipzig authorities 
had to deal; clearly a formidable man who made the good burghers feel 
uncomfortable and only too often definitely hostile. There is, however, 
another portrait of the master of the Leipzig years (Frontispiece). For more 
than 200 years it had been hidden in private collections and was only made 

1 It was painted for the Societdt der musikalischen Wissenschaften, an association of 
learned musicians founded by Lorenz Christoph Mizler, of which Bach became a member 
in 1747. Haussmann seems to have made several copies of it. That of 1747 is reproduced 
in C. S. Terry's 'Bach,' London, 1928. There is also a Haussmann portrait of 1748, in a 
much better state of preservation, which is owned by an English collector and was 
published in 1950 (cf. Hans Raupach, 'Das wahre Bildnis J. S. Bachs'). The authenticity 
of a Bach portrait claimed to have been painted by Haussmann in 1723 and preserved in 
an American collection (cf. Herz in MQ, 1943) is doubtful, and so are the paintings by 
Ihle, as well as the so-called Volbach portrait. The Bach painting by Liszewski was only 
done after the composer's death. The Haussmann portrait of 1748 was acquired in 1953 
by William H. Scheide, Princeton, N.J., U.S.A. 


available to the present writer in 1950. 1 It was executed in pastel in the 
1730's during a visit to Leipzig by a young member of the family, 
Gottlieb Friedrich, eldest son of Johann Ludwig Bach, the Meiningen 
conductor, with whom Sebastian had been in close artistic contact (cf. 
p. 108). In this beautiful pastel, Sebastian's characteristic features — the 
lofty brow, fleshy face, prominent nose, stubborn mouth — are of course 
the same, but the expression is a very different one. It is easy to find 
physical reasons for Sebastian's more relaxed attitude in this pastel. 
Gottlieb Friedrich's sitter was a man ten or twelve years younger, whose 
eyes did not yet reveal the strain that a subsequent disease was to produce. 
But the difference between Haussmann's and young Gottlieb's portraits 
reaches far deeper. The kinsman painted the master as he saw him when 
visiting Sebastian's home, which, as Emanuel later wrote to Forkel, 'was 
like a beehive, and just as teeming with life.' Here, as the centre of his 
own private world, Sebastian was by no means the man whom the 
Leipzig Council resented and feared. He was generous, courteous, and 
helpful; he rejoiced in his children and kinsmen, training them in his art 
and assisting them in every conceivable way. The man whom young Bach 
portrayed was not harassed by 'jealousy and persecution' (cf. p. 180). 
There is strength and determination combined with joy and pride in his 
face, pride in his position as the father and mentor of the many gifted 
musicians who sat at his feet and drew inspiration from his supreme 
mastery and powerful personality. 

The picture we have drawn of Sebastian at Leipzig would therefore 
be incomplete were we not to follow him into the privacy of his home and 
watch the destinies of the younger generation take shape under his 

When Bach moved to Leipzig, in 1723, four children accompanied 
him and his young wife. 2 The eldest, Catharina Dorothea, was 15 and 
thus capable of being a valuable help in the household. The three boys, 
Wilhelm Friedemann, Philipp Emanuel, and Gottfried Bernhard, aged 13, 
9, and 8 respectively, were enrolled in the Thomas school and did well 
there. Some of Friedemann's exercise books have been discovered and 

1 The pastel belongs to Mr. Paul Bach, a great-grandson of the painter. Cf. for the 
following statements Karl Geiringer, 'The Lost Bach Portrait,' Oxford University Press, 
New York, 1950. 

2 It is characteristic of Sebastian's loyalty to the family that shordy after his appoint- 
ment he had a nephew from Ohrdruf join the school. This was Johann Heinrich (born 1707), 
fourth son of Sebastian's eldest brother and teacher, Johann Christoph, who had died not 
long before. This youth stayed at the Thomas school for 4 years receiving ample musical 
instruction from his uncle; he subsequendy became Cantor in Oehringen. 


they reveal him as a very bright boy, well versed in Latin and Greek, and 
one who, on the other hand, knew how to enliven boring lessons by 
drawing caricatures and scribbling jokes into his books. Sebastian, who 
was determined that his sons should enjoy the academic training denied 
to himself, was pleased to note their scholastic aptitude. As a symbolic 
gesture, in the very year of their arrival in Leipzig, he had Friedemann's 
name entered at the University for ultimate matriculation, and at Christ- 
mas he presented the boy with the certificate of registration. Hand in 
hand with school work went a most thorough musical education, which 
must have kept the three Bach boys very busy indeed. They were naturally 
important members of Sebastian's choir; they studied organ and clavier 
with him, and they were gradually introduced into musical theory and the 
science of composition. But Sebastian was still not satisfied as far as his 
beloved 'Friede' (the family name of the eldest boy) was concerned. 
Studying with an eminent violinist seemed to him an essential part of 
musical training, and therefore, in 1726, he sent Friede to Merseburg, to 
work for almost a year with the excellent Johann Gottlieb Graun, a pupil 
of Tartini, and subsequently a colleague of Emanuel Bach in Berlin. The 
result of the Merseburg studies was probably quite satisfactory; neverthe- 
less Friede's interest remained centred in the keyboard instruments which 
his father had taught him. As regards the younger sons, musical instruc- 
tion outside the home did not seem so important to Sebastian. In any 
case, since Emanuel was left-handed he was not well qualified for playing 
stringed instruments. The father therefore trained him to become an out- 
standing clavier player, and he had the satisfaction of seeing Emanuel, at the 
age of 17, engrave a clavier minuet of his own, which was published almost 
simultaneously with Sebastian's opus I, the Clavier Ubung. Yet it was 
always Friede in whom Sebastian was most interested. He loved doing 
things in company with his eldest boy, and their trips to Dresden, to 
attend opera performances and visit the local musicians, were great treats 
for both of them. The father's sympathy and care, so unstintingly given 
at all times, at first made life easier for Friedemann, but proved ultimately 
a fatal gift. Sebastian's genius could not but overwhelm one who was so 
close to him. Friedemann naturally adopted his father's artistic tastes and 
opinions, and was unable fully to follow the trends of his own generation. 
He was also keenly conscious of the great expectations the father cherished 
for him and felt alternately inspired and heavily burdened by them. 
Emanuel, on the other hand, never achieved Friede's intimacy with his 
father; he admired Sebastian tremendously, but did not try to imitate him 
and thus his own individual style was able to develop more freely. 


geb. 21. 3.1685 

bis 1695 


17. Okt. 1707 

3. Places significant in Johann Sebastian Bach's life 


On his return from Merseburg, Friedemann continued at the Thomas 
school and in 1729 he graduated, offering a public valediction. He then 
began his studies at Leipzig University, where he remained for four years, 
taking courses in law, philosophy, and mathematics. Emanuel closely 
followed his brother's example; he entered the University two years 
later, at the age of 17, and remained as a student at this institute until 1735. 
Both brothers would, of course, have been perfectly able to find positions 
as musicians after graduating from the Thomas school, but their father 
was by no means anxious for them to do so. He did not mind supporting 
them for a few more years so as to give them the benefits of a scholarly 
education. The musical performances that he arranged with their help in 
his home were among his greatest joys. Proudly he wrote to Erdmann in 
1730: 'All my children are born musicians and from my own family, I 
assure you, I can arrange a concert vocaliter and instrumentaliter.' Besides, 
the sons were real helpers, copying music for him, taking over the instruc- 
tion of some of his pupils, 1 and rehearsing for performances; they thus 
cleared the path for Sebastian's creative work. It is no mere accident that 
the St. Matthew Passion was composed and first performed in the years 
when Friedemann and Emanuel lived with their father, assuming many of 
Sebastian's responsibilities. In 1733, however, the post of organist at 
Dresden's Sophienkirche fell vacant, and this seemed a highly suitable 
opportunity for Friedemann to start on his musical career. Sebastian Bach 
was of course well known and highly appreciated in Dresden since his 
notable success in the projected contest with Marchand (cf. p. 152), and 
he enjoyed most cordial relations with the eminent court musicians there. 
On the exquisite little organ built by Silbermann, the control of which 
Friedemann was now seeking, his father had given a recital two years 
earlier that had enraptured the Dresden courtiers and music lovers. 
Friedemann could thus count on a friendly consideration of his applica- 
tion, and all the more so since the decisive voice regarding the appointment 
belonged to the famous Pantaleon Hebenstreit, who as a former con- 
ductor at Eisenach (cf. p. 31) was well acquainted with the Bach family. 
But help of such kind was hardly necessary, for young Friedemann was 
an inspired virtuoso who profoundly affected his listeners. On the day 
after the trial performance the official document of appointment was 
executed, and Sebastian's eldest son settled down in Dresden. The father 
was pleased indeed. The position was not a lucrative one, but as it did not 
involve much work, the young musician would have plenty of time for 

1 Friedemann instructed Christoph Nichelmann, who later became, as second 
accompanist at the Prussian court, Emanuel's colleague. 


further study and creative activity. Besides, Dresden was not far from 
Leipzig, and it would be easy for father and son to visit each other, thus 
enabling Sebastian to watch his Friede's artistic growth. 1 

Emanuel was only 21, two years younger than Friedemann, when he 
left his father's home. He went to Frankfurt-on-the-Oder to continue his 
law studies at the University, supporting himself mainly with what he 
earned as a clavier teacher, for at that time he was already a masterly 
pianist. Three years later he found a position he was to hold for 27 years, 
being appointed accompanist to Friedrich 'the Great' of Prussia. 

By 1735 Sebastian had thus lost the two most important helpers in his 
family. Although the gap left by these two was further widened by the 
departure of some of his best pupils, such as J. Ludwig Krebs and Chr. F. 
Schemelli the younger, Sebastian yet saw fit to find a position for his 
third son, Johann Gottfried Bernhard (47). There was a vacancy at the 
organ of St. Mary's in Muhlhausen, and as Sebastian had, in the 27 years 
since his own service in this city, maintained friendly relations with some 
influential citizens, he now applied on behalf of his son. There was some 
opposition from members of the Council favouring a local organist, but 
the weight of Sebastian Bach's name, coupled with Bernhard's excellent 
trial performance, was too strong, and young Bach was appointed. Sebas- 
tian had apparently forgotten how difficult he himself had found condi- 
tions in Muhlhausen. His life at this moment was dominated by the vicious 
dispute raging between him and Rector Ernesti, and any other place may 
have seemed to him preferable to the thunderous atmosphere in Leipzig. 
Besides, he could not yet be sure of the outcome of his feud, and it there- 
fore seemed advisable to make young Bernhard financially independent. 
This was to prove a fatal decision. Bernhard, 20 years old, was not more 
mature, perhaps even less so, than his brothers had been at that age. 
Sebastian's wise policy of allowing his children to develop slowly would 
have been particularly beneficial for this unstable son. But instead of 
receiving a full University education he was sent away to Muhlhausen, 
where difficulties started right away. The minutes of the Council meetings 
have been preserved 2 and they clearly reveal the animosity of some 
members towards the new organist. Their remarks sound like echoes of 
the complaints raised against 20-year-old Sebastian in Arnstadt (cf. p. 

1 We hear of one such visit in 1739 in a letter of Elias Bach. Friedemann spent a 
month's vacation with his father and brought the famous Dresden lutanists, Sylvanus 
Weiss and Johann Kropfgans, with him for glorious music-making. 

2 Cf. Georg Thiele, 'Die Familie Bach in Muhlhausen,' 'Muhlhauser Geschichts- 
blatter,' 1921. 


134). One Councillor argued: 'Bach has preluded far too much and too 
long, and thus unduly shortened the time meant for the service and 
devotion. Besides, he often only confuses the congregation with his 
playing.' Another, taking offence at the young artist's powerful playing, 
exclaimed: 'If Bach continues to play in this way, the organ will be ruined 
in two years, or most of the congregation will be deaf.' (Young Bernhard 
had apparently adopted Sebastian's unconventional method of drawing 
all the stops at the same time, which, according to Emanuel, at first struck 
terror in the hearts of the organ builders or organists present.) The Mayor, 
who from the outset had been on Bach's side, tried to stem the tide of 
complaints. His remarks confirm Bernhard's fine musicianship: 'We 
should thank God that we have acquired an artistic and learned organist, 
and should neither order him to shorten his preludes nor forbid him to 
play his instrument in so masterly a manner. Had we wanted to appoint a 
bungler, we needn't have invited an artist from out of town.' Various 
Councillors were not dissuaded, however, and persevered in describing 
Bach's preludes as 'unnecessary and troublesome.' The young organist 
could not help noticing their inimical attitude. While his father in the same 
situation had felt angry, but never shaken in his self-confidence, Bernhard 
was by no means so resilient and consequently suffered more. It grieved 
him also that he was not asked to co-operate in consultations regarding the 
new organ which was being erected in his church. All this made work at 
Miihlhausen hateful to him and he besought his father to find him another 
position. Sebastian thereupon succeeded in having his son appointed to 
the Jakobikirche of Sangerhausen, a position for which he himself had 
applied in 1703 (cf. p. 129). Bernhard gave notice, and the local organist 
who had from the outset been favoured by some of the Councillors got 
the position. When in March 1737, eighteen months after his arrival, 
Bernhard left Miihlhausen, he might have rejoiced at leaving this un- 
congenial place had he not at the very end been treated with wounding 
suspicion. Those Council members who had objected to his vigorous 
playing insisted that before his departure another organist should check 
whether Bernhard had left the organ in good condition. It was a humiliating 
and, as it proved, quite unnecessary action to take against a son of the 
organ expert, who infused into his pupils a profound knowledge of, and 
veneration for, the king of instruments. We can imagine Sebastian's anger 
at this affront. Nor were Bernhard's personal affairs less unpleasant. For 
the young man, shaken by his artistic failure, had not adhered to the strict 
standards of economy and honesty instilled into him at home, and had 
incurred debts. What happened subsequently in Sangerhausen can only 


be guessed. Apparently Bernhard could not settle down there or rid him- 
self of the habit of spending more than he earned. (A certain carelessness 
with money may have been inherited from the great Johann Christoph of 
Eisenach, to whom he was related on both sides.) After less than a year 
he suddenly disappeared from Sangerhausen, leaving various debts 
behind him. The father, informed thereof, wrote as follows to a certain 
Mr. Klemm, who had been responsible for Bernhard's appointment: 1 

'So loving and tender a father as yourself will understand the grief and 
sorrow with which I write this letter. I have not seen my, alas, undutiful 
boy since last year, when I enjoyed so many kindnesses at your hands. 
Your Honour will remember that I then paid what he owed for his board 
at Miihlhausen, discharged the bonds . . . and left a sum of money to meet 
his other debts, hoping that for the future he would reform his genus vitae. 
You will therefore understand how pained and surprised I am to learn 
that he has again been borrowing money on all sides . . . and has absconded 
without giving me, so far, the slightest indication of his whereabouts. 
What can I do or say more, my warnings having failed, and my loving 
care and help having proved unavailing? I can only bear my cross in 
patience and commend my undutiful boy to God's mercy, never doubting 
that He will hear my sorrow-stricken prayer and in His good time bring 
my son to understand that the path of conversion leads to Him. 

'I have opened my heart to your Honour, and beg you not to associate 
me with my son's misconduct, but to accept my assurance that I have done 
all that a true father, whose children lie very close to his heart, is bound to 
do to advance their welfare. I recommended him to Sangerhausen when 
the vacancy occurred, trusting that its more cultured society and distin- 
guished patrons would incite him to better behaviour. As the author of 
his promotion, I must once again thank your Honour, confident that you 
will not allow the vacance to be filled until we have discovered his where- 
abouts (God, who sees all things, is my witness that since last year I have 
not set eyes upon him) and learn his future intentions, whether he resolves 
to change his course, or intends to seek his fortune elsewhere. . . .' 

In the meantime Bernhard had gone to the University of Jena to study 
law, probably receiving shelter from his kinsman, Johann Nicolaus Bach 
(cf. p. 87). It seems likely that the youth was disappointed at having been 
deprived of the scholastic training which his two elder brothers had 
received, and now wanted to make up for it. The choice of Jena was a 

1 Translation by Ch. S. Terry, I.e., reproduced by kind permission of Oxford 
University Press, London. 


wise one. Nicolaus Bach's only son had died a few months earlier, and the 
aged organist must have gladly welcomed his gifted kinsman, who could 
relieve him of part of his duties and eventually become his successor. But 
whatever Bernhard's plans were, they came to nothing; for only four 
months after his matriculation, this third son of Sebastian died suddenly 
of 'fever' at the age of 24. 

While the sons from Sebastian's first marriage were pursuing their 
own careers, a new generation was growing up in the Thomas Cantor's 
house. The cradle never stood empty. In the first decade of their Leipzig 
stay ten children were born to the couple; three more followed at wider 
intervals up to the year 1742. But for Anna Magdalena the joy of mother- 
hood was inextricably mixed with tragedy, for death was far too frequent 
a guest in this house. Of the six children surviving out of thirteen, the 
eldest, Gottfried Heinrich, caused the parents much grief and heartache. 
In the Genealogy the note referring to this son reads: 'Gottfried Heinrich, 
likewise inclined towards music, especially clavier playing. His was a great 
talent, which, however, remained undeveloped.' These words veil the 
tragic fact that this son was feeble-minded. 1 Among the remaining off- 
spring there were three girls, and two sons, Johann Christoph Friedrich, 
born in 1732, and Johann Christian, three years younger, both highly 
gifted. How to educate them was rather a problem, for Sebastian did not 
care to have them attend the Thomas school, with whose rector he had 
quarrelled so violently. Fortunately a satisfactory solution was offered by 
the visit of a cousin from Schweinfurt, Johann Elias Bach (39), a grand- 
son of Ambrosius' brother, Georg Christoph (10), who in 1738, at the 
age of 33, came to Leipzig to study Theology on a scholarship granted by 
the council of his native town and by a rich benefactor. 2 Sebastian, who 
had also trained Elias' brother (cf. p. 149), suggested that Elias should 
stay at his home, and in return for board and lodging teach the three sons 
and do some secretarial work. A contract was concluded, and before long 
most cordial relations developed between the Schweinfurt cousin and the 
Thomas Cantor's family. Various drafts of Elias' letters have been pre- 
served, and they reveal the writer as a lovable person who participated 
with faithful devotion in all that happened in the Bach household. He 
took his teaching duties very seriously, especially when he was preparing 
his charges for Communion. In 1741 another position was offered him, 

1 A case of this kind had occurred in an earlier Bach generation, a sister of Ambrosius 
Bach having been half-witted. 

2 Elias had started his University studies many years earlier at Jena, but had been 
forced through lack of funds to return home before finishing the courses. 


but he refused it stating that the relatives under his care, especially the 
eldest, were 'in the greatest need of a solid and faithful instruction.' Elias 
wrote about his eminent cousin's new works to other musicians; he tried 
to brighten Magdalena's hard life by obtaining plants and singing birds 
for her; and he urged his sister to send Sebastian a supply of her excellent 
home-made cider. Once, when the master was in Berlin, Elias, knowing 
his cousin's tendency unduly to extend absences from Leipzig, reminded 
Sebastian of the imminent Council election, for which a new composition 
by the Director Musices was expected. So Elias was a great help in many 
respects and always eager to serve his relatives. On the other hand, he 
would not have exerted himself so much had he not, as he wrote, 'received 
so much kindness' from Sebastian and the family. We learn, for instance, 
that the Thomas Cantor lent Elias his huge furlined boots and raincoat, 
both particularly dear to him as the indispensable paraphernalia of those 
trips out-of-town which he enjoyed so much. Sebastian also took his 
secretary with him on journeys to Dresden and introduced Elias to as 
high-ranking a music lover as Count Keyserlingk (cf. p. 188). Besides, the 
concerts at the Thomas Cantor's home, frequently attended by outstanding 
visiting musicians, must have been experiences never to be forgotten by 
the kinsman from Schweinfurt. Indeed, so greatly indebted to his Leip- 
zig cousin did Elias feel that years after his departure he sent to Leipzig 
a cask of his home-made wine. Sebastian's answer 1 shall follow here, as a 
good example of the composer's outspokenness and careful consideration 
of even a minor financial matter: 

'Worthy and respected cousin: 

Your letter, received yesterday, brings me the good news that you 
and your dear wife are well. For the delectable cask of wine that came 
with it accept my best thanks. Unfortunately the cask suffered a jar, or 
some other accident, on the journey, for on examination here it was found 
to be one-third empty and contains, the Visitator declares, only six quarts. 
It is regrettable that the smallest drop of so noble a gift of God should be 
wasted, but I am none the less heartily obliged by my worthy cousin's 
kind present. Pro nunc I am not reellement in a position to reciprocate; 
still quod differtur non auffertur [what is postponed, is not relinquished], 
and I hope to find an opportunity to discharge my obligation. 

'It is unfortunate that we live so far apart, for otherwise I should give 
myself the pleasure of inviting my cousin to my daughter Liesgen's 
wedding, which takes place in January 1749, to the new Naumburg 

1 Translation by Ch. S. Terry, I.e., reproduced by kind permission of Oxford 
University Press, London. 


organist, Herr Altnikol. However, though for that reason, and because of 
the inconvenient season, he cannot be present, I will ask him to assist 
them with his good wishes, and with the same I commend myself to my 
good cousin's remembrance. With warmest greetings to you from all here, 
I remain, 

Your Honour's devoted cousin and faithful 

servant to command 

Joh. Seb. Bach. 
P.S. Though my good cousin offers to send me more of the same liqueur, 
I must decline on account of the heavy charges at this end. The carriage 
was 16 gr., delivery 2 gr., Visitator 2 gr., provincial excise 5 gr. 3 pfg., 
general excise 3 gr. So my cousin may calculate that the wine cost me 
nearly 5 gr. a measure, too expensive a present!' 

By the time this letter was written, Elias was well settled in his home- 
town as Cantor and inspector of the Alumneum. When, in 1743, he had 
secured 'a permanent place and an assured small sustenance for his life- 
time,' he had seen to it that 'an honest engagement which he had entered 
into after careful consideration with a young lady in Leipzig, should now 
receive the minister's blessing.' 1 However, the happiness of the newly- 
wed did not last long; Elias' wife died two years later, and in 1746 we see 
him entering holy matrimony again. 2 When his second wife wanted to 
acquire citizenship of Schweinfurt, Elias applied to the Council to grant 
her this privilege free of charge, and offered in return a set of cantatas of 
his composition for the whole church year. He frequently wrote works of 
this kind, 3 but he had been too close to the genius of the family to think 
highly of his own achievements. 4 

1 Letter dated May 27, 1743 to Herr v. Pflug, 'Die Musik,' l.c. 

2 One of the children, Johann Michael, born in 1754, or 1753, seems to have been 
the first, and probably only, Bach musician to travel to the United States. After returning 
to Europe, he eventually gave up music in favour of the practice of law, and setded down 
as lawyer at Giistrow, Mecklenburg, far from his native Franconia. He is probably the 
author of the 'Kurze und systematische Anleitung zum Generalbass und der Tonkunst' 
published at Cassel in 1780. The whimsical introduction is dated 'Gottingen, 3 July 1780.' 
This short manual of 47 pages consists of 8 chapters dealing with consonances, dissonances, 
changing notes, passing modulations, pedal points and figured bass. The last chapter offers 
numerous examples. The same Michael Bach may be the composer of an extensive 
Friedenskantate for solos, 4-part chorus, flute, bassoons, trumpets, timpani, horns and 
strings, which was formerly the property of the Berlin Library (p. 399). According to its 
style, the work belongs approximately to the same period as the 'Anleitung.' 

3 In 1743 he received 20 thalers from the Council for two sets of church cantatas. 

4 While in Leipzig he wrote to his benefactor, Herr v. Segnitz, that he was anxious 
to obtain a position as teacher, 'music being by no means my main occupation, as one 
might think.' 


While Elias was in Leipzig, he became much attached to a young kins- 
man, who was working with Sebastian. This was the master's godson, 
Johann Ernst Bach (34), b. 1722, a son of the Eisenach organist, Johann 
Bernhard (18), who, on the other hand, had been godfather to Sebastian's 
unlucky third son. At the Thomas school young Ernst was not very 
successful. Apparently he too possessed the Bach predilection for exceed- 
ing a leave of absence that so often caused trouble with the authorities. 
In Ernst's case it resulted in his dismissal from the alumnate. However he 
stayed on in Leipzig, probably boarding with his godfather, and even- 
tually he matriculated at the University as a law student. But he was not 
permitted to finish his studies, for by the end of 1741 his father requested 
him to return to Eisenach. This was a hard blow for the ambitious youth. 
There was a great difference between the stimulating atmosphere in 
Sebastian's home, with its stream of visiting artists and enthusiastic 
disciples, and life in provincial Eisenach; a difference all the more notice- 
able since the court orchestra, on which Ernst had apparently counted, 
was disbanded in 1741 owing to the fusion of the little principality of 
Eisenach with that of Weimar. Ernst wrote about 'annoying conditions' 
and his kinsman, Elias, probably prompted by Sebastian, had to admonish 
him as follows: 1 Tt seems to me necessary and advisable for you to bear 
for some time with the solitude there, in order to assist your honest old 
Papa, for, as the Herr Kapellmeister [Sebastian] assured me, the post of 
organist in Eisenach carries an income that can support an honest man.' 
Ernst followed the advice, assisting his father competently, and when 
Bernhard died in 1749, tne position was, as a matter of course, conferred 
on the son. Thus Sebastian had the pleasure of seeing yet another highly 
gifted student of his well settled. 

Similar satisfaction was granted him through the achievements of his 
own children in his last years. In 1746 he saw Friede moving from 
Dresden into an important position at Halle, which he himself had once 
considered (cf. p. 146). Emanuel was gaining fame with his compositions 
and was happily married. Liesgen, the eldest daughter from his second 
marriage, was as we have heard, wedded to Sebastian's excellent pupil, 
Johann Christoph Altnikol, after he had, with the Thomas Cantor's help, 
secured a position in Naumburg. It was the only wedding ever celebrated 
in Sebastian's home, and therefore an occasion of much rejoicing. Even 
his 18-year-old son, Johann Christoph Friedrich, was appointed, early in 
1750, Kammermusikus to Count Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe in 
Biickeburg. A very small family-group was with Sebastian while darkness 

1 Letter dated January 9, 1742. 


closed around him. There was his eldest daughter, a spinster of 42; half- 
witted Gottfried Heinrich; two young girls, aged 13 and 8; and Johann 
Christian, aged 15. Of these the last-mentioned meant most to Sebastian, 
who took great delight in the brilliant musical talent of his youngest son 
and expressed it by presenting Christian, shortly before his death, with 
three of his claviers. Finally there was Anna Magdalena, ready as ever 
faithfully to share with her husband whatever life was bringing them, and 
by her very presence lightening his burden. The wish he had long ago 
expressed in his poem to his beloved wife (cf. p. 161), was now fulfilled; 
she was near him in the hour of final struggle. 



If an attempt were made to characterize the art of the greatest member 
of the Bach family in a single word, it would have to be the word 'unifica- 
tion.' The most heterogeneous elements were welded together by him 
into a new entity, completely coherent in character. 

Sebastian Bach is the greatest force in the unification of various 
regional and national styles. The sources of his art can be found in Central, 
Northern, and Southern Germany alike. Of equal importance in the 
development of his style were the impulses his music received from the 
works of Italian and French composers. And Bach was almost as much 
indebted to Catholic composers as he was to the masters of his own faith. 
Out of a soil nurtured by the most diversified elements grew the gigantic 
structure of Sebastian's personal style. 

Bach acted as a typically Baroque composer in recognizing no funda- 
mental difference between sacred and secular music, nor even between 
vocal and instrumental composition. Nothing gave him greater joy than 
experimenting in the various media. He applied devices of the keyboard 
style to music for strings alone, and the technique of the violin to clavier 
compositions. Elements of the Italian concerto may be found in almost 
every form of his music, including the cantata. Bach constantly arranged 
and improved compositions by others or by himself, transforming 
orchestral works into clavier compositions, instrumental into vocal music, 
secular into sacred, and German into Latin church works (cf. p. 240). He 
retained something of the medieval conception in which music was un- 
divided, and a tune could be sung or played, used for a dance round the 
village tree or for the praise of the Lord in church. 

Bach's inexhaustible imagination created an immense variety of archi- 
tectural forms. No two of his inventions, fugues or cantatas show exactly 
the same construction. Nevertheless, there is a basic feature that recurs 
again and again in both his vocal and instrumental compositions. Bach 
was deeply concerned with the 'chiastic' form, built round a centre with 
corresponding sections on each side. In its simplest version it is the da 
capo form aba, so often used by Bach; but also more complicated 
arrangements abcba or abcdcba are not unusual. The deeply 
religious composer may have found satisfaction in the thought that works 
in chiastic form have their visual equivalents in the structure of a cross, 
with two corresponding sidearms emerging from a middle beam, or in 


that of a church with side transepts flanking a central nave. Such correla- 
tions seemed quite natural to Baroque artists and Bach was in this respect 
a true son of his time. 

This accounts also for the tremendous importance which pictorialism 
assumed in Bach's vocabulary, as it did in that of his contemporaries. 
High and low, long and short, bright and dark, were given in his 
music expressions typical of this era. From pictorialism Bach proceeded 
to symbolism, in which intellectual conceptions take the place of sensory 
impressions. In the Cantata No. 12 JVeinen, Klagen, for instance, the bass 
sings 'I follow Jesus Christ.' The imitatio Christi is expressed through 
strict imitation of the vocal melody in the string parts. Moreover, this 
tune is derived from the chorale melody 'What God does, is with reason 
done.' Thus Bach uses symbolism here in two different ways within 
the narrow space of two measures. The symbolic employment of 
chorale melodies so frequent in Bach's vocal works will be discussed 

Of particular importance is the figure symbolism, such as the use of 
an unlucky number in the 13 variations of the Crucifixus in the Mass in b. 
Moreover, substituting figures for the letters of the alphabet was a 
common practice of the time, and one from which Bach derived great 
satisfaction. Fourteen, for instance, is the figure symbolizing Bach, since 
b is the second letter of the alphabet, a the first, c the third, h the eighth, 
the sum of which is 14. Inverted, 14 turns into 41, which stands for J. S. 
Bach, as J is the ninth, S the eighteenth letter and 9 plus 18 plus 14 makes 
41. In Bach's very last composition, 'Before Thy throne, my God, I stand,' 
the first line contains 14 notes, the whole melody 41 notes, as though the 
dying composer wanted to announce that he, Bach, J. S. Bach, was 
entering the eternal choir. 1 

The composer's profound intellectualism made him adopt polyphony 
as his favourite means of expression, and in this respect his work marks 
the summit of a magnificent development through several centuries. But 
while Bach, in his contrapuntal style, was firmly linked to the past, the 
harmonic idiom he employed was of a most progressive nature, opening 
up new realms of musical expression, to which even 19th-century harmony 
did not find much to add. No other composer succeeded in bringing poly- 
phony and harmony to so complete a fusion. Bach's most intricate contra- 
puntal creations are always conceived on a strictly harmonic basis, while 

1 The amazing forms which figure symbolism assumed in the canon Bach wrote for 
his admission to Mizler's Societat are analyzed in Friedrich Smend's 'J. S. Bach bei seinem 
Namen gerufen,' Cassel, 1950. 


even in his plain harmonizations of the chorale, the linear progression of 
the individual voices is superb. Vertical and horizontal elaboration are 
completely balanced and equally breathtaking. 

The development of J. S. Bach's art resembles that of other great men. 
It shows features which we find again in the spiritual growth of such 
widely differing composers as Schiitz, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Verdi, 
and Stravinsky. As happens so often, changes in the composer's style 
coincide with alterations in his surroundings and occupation. 

Bach's first creative phase, the period of youth, lasted up to the year 
1708. It was the time of his apprenticeship, terminated by engagements in 
Arnstadt and Miihlhausen. Bach eagerly absorbed the music of his con- 
temporaries and predecessors by playing it, listening to it and, above all, 
copying it. The number of works he acquired by writing them down 
faithfully is substantial indeed. It comprises compositions by members of 
his own clan, works by North Germans and South Germans, Protestants 
and Catholics, and Italian and French masters. Like the young Mozart he 
found himself by imitating others. In this first period the contents of a 
work seemed of greater interest and importance to the composer than the 
form in which it was cast. The works are rich in ideas, imbued with ardent 
fervour, and tender subjectivity; they are colourful, and their emotional 
expression is often of elemental strength. At the same time their technical 
immaturity is obvious. They are overlong, vague in their formal construc- 
tion, uncertain in their harmonic and polyphonic texture. It was a period 
of experimentation, in which young Sebastian tried his hand on various 
types of composition such as sonatas, toccatas, capriccios, preludes and 
fugues, chorale preludes and cantatas. 

Bach's second creative period, the transition from youth to maturity, 
was spent in Weimar (1708-1717). It was still a phase of extensive studies, 
but Sebastian did not merely make copies of works that interested him; 
he rearranged them, imbuing them with his own personality. He adapted 
concertos by Italian and German musicians for clavier and organ, and 
occasionally used Italian themes as subjects for his own fugues. The study 
of the Southern masters developed Bach's feeling for poignant melodies, 
solid harmonies, and well-rounded forms. 'Through a singing polyphony 
he achieved a heretofore unknown warmth, vividness and intensity.' 
(Besseler.) In Weimar Bach wisely concentrated on a single type of music, 
church composition, systematically exploring all its possibilities. The 
Bach of the second period was the great virtuoso on the 'king of instru- 
ments.' Youthful exuberance and fantastic imagination are still apparent 
in some of the organ works of this period, while others reveal the newly 


acquired mastery of contrapuntal form and well-balanced architecture. 
Similar in character is Bach's vocal music. The Weimar cantatas, com- 
bining elements of the chorale motet, the sacred concerto, and the Italian 
opera, present formal aspects later to be found in Bach's mature cantatas. 
However, their lyric ardour and subjective expression point to their affinity 
with earlier works. 

In 1717, at the age of 32, Bach became conductor in charge of all 
chamber music at the court of Cothen. This appointment marked the 
beginning of his period of maturity, lasting until 1740, in which he created 
the greatest number of supreme masterpieces. During these years Bach's 
career reached its culminating point. After working as Kapellmeister to a 
princely court, he was entrusted in 1723 with an even more important 
position, that of Thomas Cantor and director musices in Leipzig, thus 
assuming a central post within the Lutheran faith. In this period Bach no 
longer concentrated on a single type of music, as he had more or less done 
in the transitional phase. He was active in practically every field of music 
cultivated in his time, with the sole exception of opera proper, although he 
made ample use of its style and forms both in his secular and sacred vocal 
music. The unification of leading national styles culminated during this 
period, and in the field of religion, too, Bach approached the conception 
of a more universal Christianity. Though he had been brought up as an 
orthodox Lutheran, the mystical fervour of many of his Weimar and Leip- 
zig church cantatas reveals a leaning towards the same pietistic ideas that 
he had so fiercely denounced in his youth, as an organist in Miihlhausen. 
Without any compunction the mature Bach worked for many years at the 
reformed court of Cothen, and wrote Masses for the Catholic Elector of 
Saxony and for Count Sporck, who was famous for his attempts 'to unify 
all Christian denominations into a single great community of a tolerant 
and active Christianity.' 1 

It is significant that Bach, the great organ virtuoso, first reached the 
climax of his creative output in the field of instrumental music, and only 
afterwards in vocal music. Cothen saw the creation of such works as the 
two- and three-part Inventions, the French and English Suites, the first 
part of the Well-Tempered Clavier, the orchestral Overtures, and the 
Brandenburg Concertos. Among the compositions created in Leipzig, 
however, were the majority of the church cantatas, the Magnificat, 
Christmas Oratario and St. Matthew Passion as well as the B minor 

Bach's creative ability in this period was so powerful that he felt a 

1 Cf. H. Benedikt's biography of Sporck, 1923, p. 160. 


strong urge to teach others the great art of music. The majority of his 
clavier works are meant for educational purposes. Bach was possibly 
the only great composer who, far from resenting the necessity of 
teaching others, wrote instructive works on the highest level of per- 

Bach's fourth period comprises the ultimate decade of his life (1740- 
1750). Like other masters nearing the conclusion of their existence, Bach 
felt closer to the distant past than to the near present. At the same time 
future trends are significantly foreshadowed in his compositions. Though 
the amount of music written during this last period gradually decreased, 
it included works imbued with the deepest meaning, such as the Canonic 
Variations on Vom Himmel hoch y da komm ich her, the Musical Offering, 
and the Art of the Fugue. Each of them is monumental in its scope, and 
archaic in its form and character. The Canonic Variations lead us back to 
the organ chorales of Scheidt, almost a hundred years before Bach; while 
in the fugues and canons of the Art of the Fugue the composer presents an 
abstract course in the most exalted contrapuntal forms of earlier centuries. 
These works might be considered as the artistic testament of the greatest 
genius in the field of contrapuntal writing. In this same period, however, 
we occasionally find, in form, harmony, and melody, traits which it seems 
that only a composer young and progressive in spirit could have pro- 
duced. A strict chorale cantata contains so simple and naive a number as 
the duet 'We hasten' (cf. p. 222), and the potpourri of folksongs in the 
Peasant Cantata precedes the Canonic Variations only by a few years. 
It is of symbolic significance that the Musical Offering contains a Ricercar, 
one of the earliest forms of fugal writing, conceived for the pianoforte, 
the keyboard instrument of the future. 

Whether archaic or progressive elements predominate, the supreme 
strength, the variety and vitality of Bach's music made it an inexhaustible 
source of inspiration to later generations. Indeed, his influence on the 
19th and 20th centuries has probably not been exceeded by that of any 
other composer. 


Bach's vocal works form an inseparable unit. The interrelations are 
even stronger here than among the instrumental compositions. It is the 
church cantata that forms the core of his vocal output; motet, oratorio, 
and passion, as well as the secular cantatas, are all closely connected with 


it, and it therefore seems advisable, in discussing the various aspects of 
Bach's music for voices, to begin with the Church Cantatas. 1 

Only very few of these cantatas bear a date in the composer's hand. 
Scholars have nevertheless succeeded in most cases in ascertaining at least 
the approximate time of composition. Changes in Bach's handwriting, 
certain watermarks in the paper, and the date of publication of the libretto, 
have offered valuable clues. Of particular significance was Bach's peculiar 
way of transposing the parts of wind instruments and organ respectively. 
In Weimar the organ he used seems to have been tuned in the so-called 
hoher Chorton (high choir pitch), a minor third above the Kammerton 
(chamber pitch) of the other instruments. The inexperienced composer 
used the following rather complicated device to cope with this difficulty. 
He wrote for organ and strings in the same key, expecting the string 
players to tune their instruments a third higher, according to the pitch 
of the organ. Since most wind instruments could not change their pitch, 
these parts were written in the key in which they were to sound, viz. a 
third higher than the strings. 2 Any manuscripts written in this way clearly 
belong to Bach's Weimar period. 3 In Leipzig the organs of St. Thomas' 
and St. Nicholas' were tuned in the ordinary Chorton, one whole tone 
above the other instruments. Here Bach used a much simpler notation; he 
merely transposed the figured bass part meant for the organ one whole 
tone down, while all the other instruments were written in the key in 
which they sounded. The transposed organ part is therefore characteristic 
of the music written in Leipzig. 

The widespread conception that Bach himself played the organ in the 
Leipzig performances of his vocal works cannot be upheld. It would have 

1 The great number of sacred and secular Songs for Solo Voice and Instrumental Bass 
formerly attributed to Bach has shrunk considerably in view of recent research. To-day 
only a few of the songs in Anna Magdalena's Notebook, such as the heartfelt Bist du bei 
mir (BWV 508) and the three different settings of Gib dich mfrieden {BWV 510-12, cf. 
p. 161), are considered as Bach's own works. For Schemelli's Gesangbuch (BWV 439- 
507) of 1736 Bach provided the figuring of the basses, but again only three of the songs, 
viz. Dir, dir Jehova will ich singen (BWV 452), Komm siisser Tod (B WV 478) and Vergiss 
mein nicht {BWV 505) may be claimed to be authentic Bach compositions. 

2 Smend, 'Bachs Kirchenkantaten,' VI, rightly maintains that cantatas without wind 
instruments known to have been composed in Weimar, such as Nos. 152, 161, 162, ought 
to be performed in a key one third higher, since it is obvious that during Bach's time they 
were heard at this higher pitch. 

3 It was recendy pointed out that the Weimar organ with the 'high choir pitch' 
described by G. A. Wette in 1737 was an instrument fundamentally reconstructed in 1719- 
1720, i.e. after Bach's departure from Weimar. Cf. Jauernig, l.c. Yet the peculiar notation of 
cantatas that we know were performed in Weimar, offers ample evidence that the composer's 
instrument was tuned in the same way as that described by Wette. 


been beneath the dignity of the director musices to accompany on this 
instrument. He conducted with the help of music rolls in both hands, 
standing next to the organ, the way the conductor acts in a picture to be 
found in J. G. Walther's 'Music Lexicon.' Another misconception, that a 
harpsichord was used for the accompaniment of solos, and the organ for 
that of the chorus, was conclusively proved to be wrong by Arnold 
Schering. In both solo numbers and choral sections, Bach had the figured 
bass executed only by the organ, and not by the harpsichord. 1 This latter 
instrument was employed exclusively to accompany Bach's motets, since 
the composer, as a true son of his time, never considered using voices 
without instruments. 

Bach's cantatas were performed by very small groups. On ordinary 
Sundays the composer had approximately 25 musicians at his disposal: 12 
singers and 13 instrumentalists (cf. his report to the Council, p. 177). For 
certain occasions the number might be increased to 40, and for the St. 
Matthew Passion, with its special demands, he even managed to get 60 
musicians together. The soloists were also utilized in the chorus, and all 
vocalists were either boys or men. It seems that the breaking of a boy's 
voice at that time occurred later in life than it does to-day, so that Bach was 
not forced to rely only on very young boys for his soprano and alto parts. 
Besides, University students who had mastered the falsetto technique 
helped out occasionally. In all these performances the number of instru- 
mentalists slightly exceeded that of the vocalists, a fact present-day 
conductors might well bear in mind. 

According to Forkel, Bach wrote five sets of church cantatas for all 
the Sundays and holy days of the ecclesiastical year. If this statement is 
correct, he must have produced almost 300 cantatas, of which, however, 
less than 200 have been preserved. These compositions were written over 
a period of 41 years, the first in 1704, the last in 1745. 

Bach's early works in this field, up to about 171 2, are strongly depen- 
dent on models provided by the North and Central German cantata of 
his time. They are basically similar to those by older members of the Bach 
family, or those of Pachelbel, Bohm, and Buxtehude. Their texts are based 
on the Bible and on church hymns; the music often consists of compara- 
tively short sections contrasting in tempo and time signature and in the 
number of voices employed. The concertato principle rules the choruses, 
in which vocal groups of varying sizes compete with instrumental bodies. 
As a basis for the arias, ostinatos are frequently employed, repeating a 

1 Nevertheless, some modern conductors feel that in a concert performance of Bach's 
oratorios the harpsichord should alternate with the organ for the sake of variety. 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1704-1712) 209 

bass-phrase (often with modulations to other keys), while the melodic line 
changes. Of great importance in these early cantatas is the 'arioso,' a kind 
of recitative, accompanied by instruments which interrupt the vocal part 
with independent ritornelli. The freely declamatory recitative, accom- 
panied by a figured bass only, is not yet to be found in the early forms of 
Bach's church cantata. Instrumental introductions, if used at all, are 
usually short. 

Bach's first cantata, Denn du wirst meine Seele ('Suffer not Thou my 
soul' ; x No. 15 in BG and BJVV 2 ), written at the age of 19, conforms on 
the whole to this pattern, although the work was obviously revised by the 
composer at a later date. The foundation of its text is provided by 7 verses 
from a church hymn. There is ample evidence that this is the work of a 
very young composer, for the declamation is frequently awkward, the 
expression exaggerated and the texture predominantly homophonic. 
Nevertheless, even at this very early stage, genius manifested itself in 
Bach's masterly combination of two melodies inspired by completely 
opposite moods (Ex. 29) ; and although the cantata consists of about a 

£ X. 39 

the otk . ers are moan . _ _ _ ing And Veep. - - - - ing the 

F E ^£r t r r F ( LLLr F r Pg l J r . ^ 

I'm Uugi . . . ing and snout .......... ing t And laugh inj -frith. 

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dozen sections, its rambling construction is held together by the simple 
and powerful scheme of the main modulations: C-a-C-G-C. 

The number of cantatas written in Miihlhausen is not certain. Among 
them are: No. 131, Aus der Tiefe ('From the deep, Lord') composed, as 
the autograph indicates, for Bach's friend, the Reverend Eilmar (cf. p. 
140); No. 71, Gott ist mein Konig ('God is my Sov'reign'), performed on 
February 4, 1708, in honour of the newly elected city council; and perhaps 
No. 106, Gottes Zeit ('God's own time'), which may have been written 
for the commemorative service held for Bach's uncle, Tobias Lammerhirt, 
or for a funeral in 171 1. 3 

These cantatas are similar in construction. Each introduces three 

1 The English tides and quotations are as a rule given in the translation by 
Henry S. Drinker. Cf. 'Text of the Choral Works of J. S. Bach,' vols. 1-3. 

2 The numbering of the church cantatas used in BG which is generally adopted in 
quoting these works was also accepted by BWV. Hence each cantata number is also the 
number of the BWV. 

3 Jauernig, Lc, assumes that it was written for the funeral of Bach's predecessor in 
Weimar, Johann Effler, who was buried on April 7, 171 1. Bach had worked with Effler 
when he first came to Weimar in 1703 (cf. p. 130). 



choruses, of which the second forms the centre of the composition. The 
text of Aus der Tiefe is based on Psalm 130 and two stanzas from a 
chorale. Remarkable in this early composition is the instrumental character 
of Bach's vocal style. Coloraturas to be sung on a single syllable are 
frequently interspersed with rests, a mannerism by no means unusual in 
vocal works of the time, but as a rule avoided by Bach in his later works. 
The final vocal fugue is so strongly instrumental in its design that it even 
slipped in with the master's organ works in an arrangement by one of 
Bach's pupils (BWV 131a). 

Gott ist mein Konig is the only cantata by Bach to be printed during 
his lifetime that has been preserved; 1 its printing was due not so much 
to the qualities of the composition as to the significance which the popu- 
lation of Miihlhausen attributed to the political event it celebrated. In this 
Motetto, as Bach himself calls it, the technique of the concertato reaches 
a climax. One brass choir, two woodwind groups, and one string choir 
compete with one larger and one smaller vocal group in a manner recalling 
the splendour of Venetian art as reflected in the cantatas of Buxtehude. 
The duet No. 2, 'Full fourscore years I am,' entrusts an ornamented chorale 
tune to the contralto, while the tenor voice and an organ obbligato intro- 
duce counter melodies. The result is a vocal form surprisingly similar to 
an organ prelude. Yet the final chorus of this cantata shows that the com- 
poser had begun to free himself from an excessively instrumental concep- 
tion. The concluding fugue employs voices and orchestra as equal 
partners and does not require them to double each other in the usual way; 
they rather take turns and enhance one another's lines. 

The finest and most important among Bach's early cantatas is Gottes 
Zeit, known as the Actus tragicus. Its text, taken from the Bible and from 
church hymns, was probably assembled by Bach himself, possibly with 
the assistance of the Reverend Eilmar. The basic idea of this 'German 
Requiem' 2 is that Death's curse and punishment implied in the Old 
Testament was transformed through the intervention of Christ into 
promise and bliss; the threat of the old covenant was changed into hope. 
The cantata begins with an instrumental introduction for flutes, viole da 
gamba, and continuo, whose content Schweitzer justly describes with the 
words of the Revelation: 'And God shall wipe away all tears from their 

1 Regarding Bach's cantata printed in 1709 cf. p. 142. 

2 The similarity both in content and architecture to Brahms' 'German Requiem' is 
quite striking (cf. Geiringer, 'Brahms,' New York, 1947, p. 311). Brahms certainly knew 
Bach's cantata, which was first published in 1830 and was a favourite of his friend, Julius 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1712-1717) 211 

eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, 
neither shall there be any more pain.' The first chorus starts with a 
surprisingly folksong-like melody such as Bach used only in his early 
works. Magnificent short arias by tenor and bass lead to the heart of the 
drama, the great middle chorus. In a ponderous fugue, symbolizing the 
strictness of the law, the 3 lower voices present the words of Ecclesiastes 
'For the covenant from the beginning is, Thou shalt die.' In dramatic 
contrast the light voices of boy sopranos interrupt with the words 'O 
come, Lord Jesus, come.' This invocation gains in intensity, and at the 
end the dark menace is completely vanquished, while the sopranos sing 
the last notes without any instrumental accompaniment. To emphasize 
the preponderance of the Christian spirit, Bach had the flutes intone at the 
same time the tune of the chorale 'My cause is God's, and I am still, let 
Him do with me as He will.' The words of the hymn were not needed to 
convey this message to a congregation familiar with Protestant church 
songs. The musical architecture of this cantata is as simple and powerful 
as its meaning. Its modulatory basis displays a chiastic arrangement (cf. 
p. 202) EJ?-c-f-b>-Al?(f)-c-E!? 

With their vigorous language, their highly subjective idiom, and their 
richly flowing imagination, these early cantatas present a picture of lofty 
achievement rarely equalled by so young a composer. 

During the years Bach spent in Weimar he wrote about 20 church 
cantatas, most of them basically different from his earlier works in this 
field. In the years 171 2-14 he had turned towards a new type of cantata 
the texts of which were introduced by Pastor Erdmann Neumeister (cf. 
p. 159). The main feature of this reformed cantata was, as the librettist 
himself expressed it, that 'it looked hardly different from a section of an 
opera.' It used paraphrases of the Bible text or of Protestant hymns (known 
as 'madrigalian' texts) for secco recitatives and da capo arias which formed 
the core of the cantatas. The former arioso was but rarely used, and the 
choruses and hymns, whose place was now mainly at the beginning and 
the end of the work, were greatly reduced in number. Even cantatas with- 
out any chorus were not infrequent. Neumeister's texts were similar in 
content to his sermons which they preceded in the service. If the cantata 
was in two parts, the first was performed before and the second after the 

Bach wrote five of his Weimar cantatas (Nos. 18, 59, 61, 142, 160) to 


texts by Neumeister, but he preferred librettos by Salomo Franck, 
secretary of the Protestant Consistory in Weimar. There was much in 
these texts that recommended them to the young composer. Franck was 
more conservative than Neumeister, a tendency which suited Bach, who 
was, in this phase of transition, by no means willing to make a clean break 
with the past, and rather liked to intermingle old and new elements in his 
music. What attracted him particularly, however, was the deep mystic 
feeling prevailing in Franck's texts which satisfied a craving in Bach's 
own soul. 

The Cantata No. 21, Ich hatte viel Bekummernis ('My heart and soul 
were sore distressed'), composed in 1714 1 to words by Salomo Franck, 
belongs to the comparatively few compositions by Bach in which his art 
meets with that of his greatest contemporary in the realm of music. It has 
been observed that certain melodic details prove that the Weimar Concert- 
meister knew Handel's opera 'Almira.' Moreover, the final chorus 'The 
Lamb that was sacrificed,' with its brilliant trumpets, exhibits the simple 
al-fresco technique of Handel. On the other hand, it should be noted that 
the beginning of 'Worthy is the Lamb' in the 'Messiah' reveals a certain 
kinship with this chorus. On the whole the cantata shows the typical 
aspects of the Weimar works. The Sinfonia to its first part, with its 
holds on dissonant chords and the oboe's outcry in the penultimate 
measure, is among the most passionate instrumental numbers Bach ever 
conceived, and it creates the right atmosphere for the feeling of desolation 
which predominates at the start of the opening chorus. The three ejacula- 
tions 'I, I, I' at the beginning of this number have often been commented 
on. 2 The repetition of the first word at the start of a composition is 
typical of 17th-century music, and in this particular case Bach may have 
reverted to it to stress the work's subjective character. Even more old- 
fashioned is the next chorus with its quick emotional contrasts and the 
sudden changes between solo and tutti, fast and slow, forte and piano. On 
the other hand the solo numbers show how much the composer had 
learned from contemporary opera. The dialogue between the soul and 
Jesus, for instance, is a love duet of sensuous beauty which might well 
have shocked some members of the congregation. Pieces like these were 
responsible for the clause in Bach's Leipzig contract that his compositions 
'should not make an operatic impression.' 

The composer's tendency in the Weimar years towards investigating 

1 Jauernig's assumption, I.e., that the work was written and performed in this year 
to celebrate the completion of the new organ in Weimar is convincing. 

2 Mattheson, 'Critica Musica,' II, p. 368, derides it in a rather unfair manner. 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1712-1717) 213 

new artistic possibilities without sacrificing the familiar manifests itself in 
a curious experiment he made in his Cantata No. 61, Nun komm der 
Heiden Heiland ('Come Thou, of man the Saviour'), composed in 1714 to 
words by Neumeister. The first chorus is a chorale fantasy in the form of a 
French overture. The movement begins with the traditional slow tempo 
and dotted rhythms of Lully's introductions, to which the voices intone 
the first two lines of the chorale 'Come Thou, of man the Saviour, Thou 
child of a Virgin born.' The time signature then changes and Bach pre- 
scribes Gai as tempo. A fast and merry fugue on the third chorale line 
'Mortals over all the earth' now forms the middle section, which leads to 
the slow conclusion using the last line 'Marvel at Thy holy birth.' A 
magnificent tour de force which the mature artist never attempted to 

The years at Weimar witnessed the creation of some of Bach's most 
subjective works in the field of church music. The Arnstadt and Muhl- 
hausen cantatas had already revealed a strongly individualistic touch. 
Now the Jesusminne (love of Jesus), the all-consuming yearning for 
release from earthly fetters, the welcoming of death as the gate to heavenly 
bliss, assumed proportions unparalleled in the music of the time. While 
the new form of the cantata had been devised by orthodox ministers 
vigorously opposed to the ideas of Pietism, a mystic undercurrent in many 
of the texts chosen by the composer, tremendously strengthened by Bach's 
intense music, brought these works perilously close to the hated doctrine. 
Yet Bach probably never admitted that to himself, for he was wont to 
fight Pietism for its inimical attitude towards concerted music, and to 
brush aside the fact that his own leaning towards mysticism was not so 
very different from that of the Pietists. 

A characteristic example is supplied by the Easter cantata Der Himmel 
lacht, die Erde jubilieret 1 (No. 31, 'The heavens laugh, the earth exults in 
gladness') based on words by Franck. The cantata begins in a mood of 
rejoicing and jubilation, which soon turns to thoughts of death and 
suffering. For Franck and Bach the idea of resurrection was inextricably 
bound up with that of decay and annihilation, and they saw in death not 
a menace, but a goal eagerly to be sought by the Christian. Therefore it is 
not the pompous introductory Sonata in concerto form, nor the first 
jubilant chorus that constitutes the climax of the work; it is the last aria 
'Hour of parting, come to me.' Here a soprano, assisted by oboe and bass, 
performs a trio in dance rhythm of irresistible sweetness, to which violins 
and violas add, in the manner of the Actus tragicus, the immortal chorale 

1 The work was composed in 171 5 but revised by Bach in 1731. 



tune 'When finally my hour comes. 5 This chorale is then taken up by the 
full chorus and orchestra, with the trumpets reaching the highest clarino 
registers, thus proclaiming the glory and bliss of death leading to the 
soul's reunion with Christ. 

Even more transcendental is the character of No. 161, Komm du susse 
Todesstunde ('Come sweet death, thou blessed healer') composed in 171 5 
to words by Franck. Here the death-chorale 'My heart is ever yearning 
for blessed death's release' (which was to play so important a part as 
Passion chorale in the St. Matthew Passion) constitutes the framework for 
the whole composition. In the first aria, for contralto, in which the dis- 
embodied tune of the flutes (recorders) seems to extend a promise of 
eternal life, the organ intones this chorale, and it is taken up again at the 
end by the full chorus in a vision of trance-like bliss. Among the other 
numbers is a recitative accompanied by full orchestra which provides a 
deeply stirring illustration of sleep and awakening. In the singer's part the 
yearning for deliverance from earthly fetters reaches its ecstatic climax, 
while the flutes, with quickly repeated high notes, the strings with sombre 
pillicati, and the basses with majestic octave leaps, sound a weird chorus 
of tolling death bells (Ex. 30). 


imimim jot. JTf^ jot. jot 


The last composition in this period of transition is in all likelihood 
the powerful cantata No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden ('Christ lay by 
death enshrouded'). It was probably written in Weimar, although Bach 
revised it for a Leipzig performance in 1724. Rarely did he compose a 
work looking so decidedly into the past and at the same time showing 
features of so progressive a nature. Like the cantatas of the first period, it 
has no 18th-century elements in the text, but simply uses Luther's power- 
ful hymn as a libretto. Nevertheless distinctly separated choruses, arias, 
and duets are used in a manner revealing the influence of the reforms 
initiated by Neumeister and Franck. The music is based on a 12th-century 
melody, and a cantata by Kuhnau on the same tune might be considered 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1723-1745) 215 

as its godfather. The harsh modal harmonies and the doubled middle parts 
of the violas contribute to the very archaic character of the composition, 
which appears like a series of vocal interpretations of organ chorales in the 
manner of Bohm and Pachelbel. But the dominating position which the 
hymn assumes throughout the work also points to the chorale cantatas 
written by Bach in the later Leipzig years. Christ lag in Todesbanden con- 
sists of seven vocal movements, each presenting a variation on the same 
hymn tune and using one stanza of Luther's chorale as a text. The form 
is compact 

chorus duet aria chorus aria duet chorus; 
123456 7 

even the introductory instrumental Sinfonid in the style of Buxtehude 
makes use of the basic tune. The combination of contrapuntal art with 
expressive power and Baroque symbolism is overwhelming. Only one 
detail can be mentioned here, a detail that is usually lost to English 
audiences owing to a free translation. Luther's stark 16th-century lan- 
guage proclaims that after the fight between life and death 'one death 
devoured the other.' Bach symbolizes it by a kind of canon in which the 
parts seem to be entangled in a mortal struggle until one after the other 

Both in quantity and in artistic significance the church cantatas 
written in Leipzig form an entity unique in the history of music. Bach 
aims at a fusion and complete unification of the most diversified aspects of 
his art. The wide range of the texts staggers the imagination; it encom- 
passes all transitions from the strictest Lutheran orthodoxy to the most 
tender and emotional pietism, from the plastic diction of the Reformation 
period to the effeminate mannerisms of the 18th century. In the music, 
too, old and new trends are brought into a perfect integration. The inten- 
sity of the polyphonic thinking is now completely balanced by the abun- 
dance of harmonic inspiration. The cumulative effect of Bach's technical 
brilliance, graphic pictorialism, profound symbolism, and emotional 
intensity is overwhelming. 

In most cases we do not know who were the authors of Bach's texts. 
It seems by no means impossible that he himself wrote some of them. If 
it was a question of changing the words of a previously written com- 
position or quickly making up a libretto for some special occasion, Bach 


relied on the services of his friend, Friedrich Henrici (1700-64), better 
known under his pen-name, Picander. It was this writer who was 
probably responsible for the paraphrasing of many of the hymn texts 
used in Bach's chorale cantatas of the later years. In addition, such 
widely contrasting texts as the librettos to the Coffee Cantata and the 
St. Matthew Passion were produced by this able and musically gifted 

To the cantatas whose librettists are unknown belongs the magnificent 
No. 46, Schauet dock und sehet ('Look ye then and see'), written in the 
first Leipzig years for the tenth Sunday after Trinity. The work deals with 
a favourite religious idea of the Baroque era; it first threatens the sinner, 
and subsequently comforts him with promises of the Lord's forgiveness. 
The powerful initial chorus uses flutes, oboi da caccia (English horns), 
trumpet, and strings. The emotional content of its slow first section can 
best be deduced from the fact that Bach used it later for the Qui tollis of 
his B minor Mass. Perfect declamation and poignant feeling are combined 
with a polyphonic texture of supreme artistry. The intensity of grief is 
expressed both with the help of harsh dissonances and with mighty 
strettos. The recitative which follows recalls Neumeister's plea that a 
cantata ought to resemble a sermon, for here a fanatic preacher seems to 
threaten the cowed congregation. The sinister mood reaches a climax in 
the ensuing aria. Its violent trembling of the strings and the weird 
trumpet-fanfares draw a strikingly realistic picture of the annihilating 
thunderstorm in which the last judgment takes place and the sinner must 
face 'God's wrath unceasing.' And then, with typically Baroque sudden- 
ness, the picture changes; the threat of damnation is replaced by the 
promise of salvation. A contralto solo combined with two flutes and 
two oboi da caccia playing in unison creates an atmosphere of celestial 
sweetness. To avoid all earthly heaviness Bach even does away with the 
traditional basso continuo. The concluding chorale, with an instrumenta- 
tion similar to that of the first chorus, seems to condense the significance 
of the whole work: 'Through Jesus' intercession, forgive Thou our trans- 

The delightful cantata, No. 65, Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen 
('From Sheba shall many men be coming') was written for the Epiphany 
of 1724 or 1725 to words which Bach himself may have compiled. The 
famous first chorus is a lofty piece of concerted music in which four 
groups of instruments — horns, flutes, oboi da caccia, and strings — com- 
pete with human voices to create a richly glowing picture of the stately 
procession leading camels and dromedaries laden with gold and incense 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1723-1745) 217 

as offerings to the Lord. Inexhaustible inspiration, unerring judgment in 
the combination of musical colours, and a highly emphatic declamation 
join forces to give the most powerful utterance to the prophecy of 

The tremendous range of Bach's descriptive power can be shown by 
a third cantata from this period, No. 19, Es erhub sick ein Streit ('See how 
fiercely they fight'), written for St. Michael's Day, 1726. Again the com- 
poser himself may have written the words, using as his model an earlier 
libretto by Picander. The text based on Revelation describes the war in 
Heaven, with Michael and his angels battling 'the great dragon called 
Satan'; a subject that had been set to music in a masterly composition by 
Johann Christoph Bach (cf. p. 57), which was well known to Sebastian. 
Without any introduction the basses intone the powerful melody of the 
battle {Ex. 31) which works its way upward through the voices. Presently 


See how fiercely ihej /JjM 

trumpets and timpani set in, leading the hearer right into the heart of the 
furious fight. The combat reaches its climax at the beginning of the 
passionate middle part, when the powers of darkness make a supreme 
effort to conquer Heaven. But Michael foils the foe; victory is won, and 
the unison of 3 trumpets confirms the doom of the horrible dragon. A com- 
poser who had a dramatic effect primarily in mind would have ended his 
movement here, and this is what Johann Christoph Bach did. To Sebas- 
tian, however, it seems essential to round off the chorus, and give it a 
perfect musical form. He therefore retraces his steps and starts once more: 
'See how fiercely they fight.' Then he relinquishes the description from 
Revelation (to which his kinsman had adhered throughout his work, in 
the manner of the older cantatas) and proceeds to describe in a partly 
lyric, partly epic manner the results of the victory. There is a tender da 
capo aria for the soprano with two oboi d'amore (oboes tuned a minor 
third lower and equipped with pear-shaped bells) and a recitativo accom- 
pagnato referring to the loving kindness of the Saviour, to which the full 
string body in a manner later used in the St. Matthew Passion contri- 
butes a kind of halo. In a moving tenor aria the soul prays 'Bide ye angels, 
bide with me,' and to enhance the power of the supplication, the trumpet 
intones 'Lord, let Thy blessed angels come' from the hymn Her^lich lieb 


(1 love Thee, Lord, with all my heart'). In the last chorale the angels are 
implored to assist mankind in the hour of final need. The orchestration 
here is the same as in the first movement, thus implying that Michael's 
victory prepared the way for the soul's eternal triumph. 

It should be mentioned that the first page of the autograph bears the 
following title in Bach's hand: /. /. Festo Michaelis Concerto a 14. The 
first two letters stand for Jesu Juva (Jesus help), an abbreviation often 
employed by the composer at the beginning of his works. The 14 voices 
are 3 trumpets, 3 oboes, 3 stringed parts, the vocal quartet, and continuo 
(as usual, the composer does not count the timpani). The author's name is 
not on the manuscript, although there would have been room enough to 
insert it, and as a rule Bach does write it on his scores. In explaining this 
Friedrich Smend 1 alleges that for those initiated in figure symbolism the 
number 14 stood for Bach (cf. p. 203), and that the composer considered 
it unnecessary to write his name a second time in letters (cf. 111. XIII). 

In the years following 1730 Bach gradually widens the scope of his 
''cantatas, taking a strong interest in both the solo and the chorale cantata. 
One of the most beautiful of his compositions for a single voice, in which 
the vocal virtuosity is markedly increased, is No. 56, Ich will den Kreu^stab 
gerne tragen ('I will my cross-staff gladly carry'), a work of intimate 
chamber character, originally written for Anna Magdalena's soprano, 
later, however, transcribed for contralto, and eventually for bass. In its 
final form (completed probably in 173 1 or 1732) the heartfelt work has 
delighted not only church congregations, but innumerable concert 
audiences. The cantata has no introduction and starts with a broadly con- 
ceived da capo aria. In its middle part the solo voice suddenly sings in 
triplets, while the instruments keep up the former movement in eighth 
notes. The resulting combination of different rhythms expresses the 
passionate yearning in the words 'There will I entomb all my sorrows and 
sighs, my Saviour will wipe all the tears from my eyes.' In the following 
beautiful arioso, inspired by the words 'My journey through the world is 
like a ship at sea,' Bach depicts the movement of the waves through a 
rocking motive given out by the 'cello. This accompaniment is suddenly 
discontinued when the weary traveller reaches heaven and leaves the ship. 
Of equal beauty is a recitative near the end of the cantata expressing the 
soul's readiness to receive its eternal reward from the hands of the Lord. 
Here the composer makes use of the sustained notes of the strings which 
he also uses in the recitatives of the St. Matthew Passion to symbolize 
the appearance of Christ. In its second half the recitative very poetically 

1 'Bachs Kirchenkantaten,' III/41. 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1723-1745) 219 

turns into a quotation of the middle section of the first aria, thus creat- 
ing a firm link between the initial and concluding solo numbers of the 
cantata. Even in a work so little suited to the inclusion of a hymn, Bach 
is loath to omit it, and he finishes his cantata with a four-part chorale, 
probably sung by the congregation. 

For his larger church compositions Bach showed an increasing interest 
in the chorale cantata in which a hymn constitutes the basis of both text 
and music. In its pure form the chorale cantata could be found in Christ 
lag in Todesbanden. Bach now prefers the freer form in which only the 
first and last stanzas of the hymn text are preserved in their original version, 
while the stanzas in between are transformed and paraphrased according 
to 18th-century taste into texts suitable for recitatives, arias and duets. 
Even complete movements that are only indirectly connected with the 
basic poem are occasionally inserted. For the first chorus a polyphonic 
treatment of the hymn tune is generally used, for the last a simple four- 
part harmonization. The variety of form in these chorale cantatas, which 
Bach seems to have conceived in connection with Picander, is truly 
staggering. Hymn tunes are woven into the fabric of instrumental intro- 
ductions, and are used in big chorale fantasias, chorale passacaglias, and 
in movements of a motet-like character. Bach employs them in recitatives, 
arias and duets, and he presents them in permanently renewed harmonic 
splendour at the end of the cantatas. More and more the chorale becomes 
the life-blood of the composer's sacred music. 1 

The cantata No. 80, Eiri feste Burg ('A mighty fortress'), was prob- 
ably first performed in 1730 at the Reformation Festival. It consists of six 
movements written as early as 1716 on a libretto by Franck, based on 
Luther's famous hymn but later completely revised, and two movements 
composed for the ultimate version. A second revision seems to have been 
made by Friedemann Bach, who inserted trumpets and kettle-drums into 
the choruses Nos. 1 and 5; an addition which so greatly enhances the effect 
that it has been generally adopted. The first chorus is a magnificent 
chorale fugue framed by a canon presenting the hymn tune in long notes 
in the highest and lowest instrumental parts. The ultimate degree of 
contrapuntal artistry is used here to symbolize the rule of the divine law 

1 Bach seems to have written many chorale harmonizations not contained in his 
cantatas. Between 1784-7 Philipp Emanuel Bach and J. Ph. Kirnberger published 4 volumes 
of 'Joh. Seb. Bachs vierstimmige Choralgesange' comprising 371 numbers, of which 162 can 
be traced back to cantatas, oratorios, Passions, etc. Of the remaining pieces (BJVV 253- 
438) some may have been taken from choral works lost to-day. Even at a time when the 
work of Sebastian Bach was very little known, these exquisite arrangements were gready 



throughout the Universe. Completely different is the second chorus in 
which all 4 voices for once present the hymn tune in powerful unison. 
Around them roars the wildly turbulent orchestra, the 'fiends ready to 
devour' of the hymn. Whoever hears this grandiose piece will realize that 
for the composer just as for Luther, the author of the hymn text, the devil 
was somebody quite real. 

Very different is the mood in No. 140, the chorale cantata Wachet auf 
('Sleepers, wake') probably written in 173 1. 1 Nicolai's beautiful hymn on 
which it is based deals with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, 
and turns later to a description of heavenly Zion. In the first movement 
the chorale melody is presented in long notes by the soprano, under 
which the lower voices weave a vivid contrapuntal texture inspired by the 
words rather than by the melody of the church song. The orchestra adds 
a completely independent accompaniment picturing the approach of the 
heavenly bridegroom (a) and the eager anticipation of the maidens (b) 
(Ex. 32). Out of these various strata grows a sound picture of over- 

Ix. 32 

A *■> V 




s. _7 T ~" 


whelming sensuous beauty. In the second chorale fantasia the hymn tune 
intoned by the tenors is joined by a completely different violin melody of 
a caressing sweetness rarely to be found in Bach's cantatas; this depicts the 
graceful procession of the maidens going out to meet the heavenly bride- 
groom (cf. p. 258). In the two duets following this number the objective 
chorale is silent, and the pledges which Christ and the soul exchange 
sound not very different from those of earthly lovers. The second duet in 
particular, with its similarity of motives in both voices, points far into the 
future, to the duets between husband and wife in Haydn's 'Creation' and 
Beethoven's 'Fidelio.' 

During his final period of cantata production — the last work that can 
be dated with certainty is No. 116, Du Friedefurst ('Thou, Prince of 
Peace'), performed November 22, 1745 — Bach cultivated the chorale 
cantata in its strict form, based in all its parts on a specific well-known 
Protestant hymn text and omitting any numbers not dependent on this 
church song. Good examples of the style of these last 25 odd cantatas are 
furnished by Nos. 92 and 78, both composed around 1740. 

1 The date 1742, suggested by Rust for this cantata, seems less likely. 

j. Sebastian's cantatas (1723-1745) 221 

Cantata No. 92, Ich hab in Gottes Heri und Sinn ('To God I give my 
heart and soul'), consists of 9 numbers, 3 of which use the words of Paul 
Gerhardt's poem unchanged, while in the remaining sections the hymn 
text is either interspersed with words by an unknown 18th-century poet 
or altogether paraphrased. Bach uses the old French tune to which Ger- 
hardt's poem is usually sung in more than half the numbers of the cantata, 
whenever he employs the original text. 1 The introductory chorus is a 
powerful chorale fantasia with the melody in the soprano, while the lower 
voices and the orchestra contribute to the interpretation. In No. 2, 
Recitativo e Corale, we find most striking contrasts between the chorale 
lines, accompanied by a kind of ostinato bass, and the very dramatic 
recitatives inserted in between. The rapid succession of short and basically 
different sections, declamation alternating with singing, results in a 
strangely disturbing piece, typically Baroque in its expression. The 
following aria for tenor, which describes the breaking down and the de- 
struction of everything not sustained by God, brings the wild excitement 
to a climax. Both the singer (whose part presents almost insurmountable 
difficulties) and the orchestra create a mood of fierce exultation. No. 4, in 
which chorale text and melody are presented by the contralto, is again 
more objective in character. It resembles in its construction the tenor aria 
of the cantata Wachet auf. Here Bach inserts the individual lines of the 
hymn tune into a trio for two oboi d'amore and continuo, a beautiful 
musical composition complete in itself. The last aria in 3/8 for soprano, 
with its oboe d'amore solo and strings pizzicati sounding almost like a 
serenade, presents a picture of the paradisian joy experienced by a soul rest- 
ing in Jesus. In the narrow confines of a cantata forming but one section 
of the service, Bach has been able to conjure up the whole wide world of 
Baroque Protestantism. His congregation had to pass through the horrors 
of the powers of darkness before the glory of salvation rose dazzlingly 
before them. 

In cantata No. 78, Jesu, der du meine Seek ('Jesus, by Thy Cross and 
Passion'), the first movement is one of the loftiest exhibitions of contra- 
puntal art, outstanding even among Bach's works. It is a passacaglia on 

1 The relation of Bach's composition to the poem by Paul Gerhardt is shown in the 
following table, in which [ ] surrounding a figure indicate that the respective stanza is 
presented with 18th-century additions, while ( ) indicate that it is used as the basis of a 

B: Chorale Chor. & Aria Chor. & Recit. Aria Chor. & Aria Chorale 
Fantasia Recit. Aria Recit. harmon. 

G: I [II] (III-IV) V (VI-VIII) (IX) [X] (XI) XII 



a chromatically descending bass {Ex. 33) such as Baroque masters liked 
to use in their 'Lamentos,' and such as Sebastian himself employed in the 


Crucifixus of his great Mass. In the course of the 27 variations, this woeful 
figure is raised to the upper voices, and it appears in transposition and in 
contrary motion. Into this highly artificial shell Bach builds without any 
apparent effort a complete chorale fantasia. The result is an awe-inspiring 
description of the Lord's suffering. After this overwhelming chorus, 
scored for a large orchestra, there follows a delicate duet for soprano and 
contralto ('We hasten with feeble yet diligent footsteps') accompanied 
only by 'cello, organ, and a stringed bass 'staccato e pizzicato.' In its 
ingratiating melody, strong dance rhythm with accent on first and third 
beats, uncomplicated harmonies and frequent progressions in parallel 
thirds and sixths {Ex. 34) we discover a Bach with leanings towards folk- 


We hast • en yfiih 

ed . . gtr yei /aJ - . taring /oof . .steps, o Je . su, o Ms., sier, for help un .io Thee 

«4 . . ger yel fal . . iering faoi..steps t o Je . su t o Ma - ster l for help un -to Thee 

song-like simplicity. 1 While the ageing master was mainly concerned 
with revealing the glory of a vanishing age to a younger generation, he 
could, if he chose to do so, always beat them with their own weapons. A 
joyful tenor aria and a dramatic bass aria are each preceded by recitatives 
which introduce not only literal quotations from the text of the hymn, 
but also allusions to its melodic material. Particularly moving is the second 
one accompanied by strings. After sudden and repeated changes, a fervent 
arioso ensues for which Bach even prescribes 'con ardore.' The final 
chorale expresses the confidence of the faithful that they will be united 
with Jesus all through 'sweet eternity.' Bach gives the whole cantata a 
kind of rondo-like character by using the hymn tune not only in the first 

1 It is curious to note that the piece bears a certain resemblance to the delightful 
duet 'Hark, hark' in Purcell's Masque to 'Timon of Athens.' The possibility that Bach 
knew the score cannot be completely discarded. 

j. Sebastian's motets 223 

and seventh movements, but also, to a lesser extent, in Nos. 3 and 5. A 
relationship to the Vivaldi concerto form, which was of so basic an im- 
portance for Bach, is not difficult to detect. 

Bach composed no Latin Motets, since he was not obliged to by his 
duties and he considered the genre old-fashioned. He did, however, write 
six German motets for special occasions. One of them, Lobet den Herrn 
('Praise ye the Lord'; BWV 230), was probably completed before he 
came to Leipzig. Four motets for funeral services, Jesu, meine Freude 
('Jesus, dearest Master'; BWV 227, comp. 1723); Fiirchte dich nicht ('Be 
not dismayed'; BWV 228, comp. probably 1726); Der Geist hilft unsrer 
Schwachheit auf ('The Spirit also helpeth us'; BWV 226; comp. 1729); 
and Komm, Jesu, komm ('Come, Jesus, come'; BWV 229), originated in 
the first half of his service as Thomas Cantor, while the sixth, Singet dem 
Herrn ('Sing to the Lord'; BWV 225), was composed for New Year 
1746, to celebrate the end of the second Silesian war. 

In these motets Bach uses the same kind of texts as in his early 
cantatas. The sources of his words are chorales and the Bible. His 
familiarity with the material, unusual even in that time of most 
thorough Bible-knowledge, helped him to compile deeply stirring and 
poetical texts. 

The retrospective character of the motet form makes it understandable 
why Bach established in these works a certain connection with the produc- 
tions of older members of the family. Johann Christoph Bach, too, wrote 
a motet Fiirchte dich nicht, in which Bible words are combined with a 
chorale text, and Dietrich Buxtehude composed a cantata Jesu, meine 
Freude, which is in E minor like Sebastian's work of the same title. Never- 
theless, Sebastian's main sources for these compositions were not the 
older German motets, but his own cantatas. Both the melodic and the 
harmonic treatment of the voices, the rich polyphonic texture, and, most 
of all, the basic importance of the chorale melodies, are the same as in the 
cantatas. It is true that there are no arias, duets or similar forms in the 
motets and they do not contain any independent instrumental parts. 
Nevertheless they were not performed by voices only. For the motet Der 
Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf, a full autograph set of orchestral parts 
doubling the voices, as well as a figured bass, has been preserved. For 
Lobet den Herrn, too, Bach's continuo part exists. Real a capella music 
was at that time not heard in Germany, and it seems certain that an organ 



or harpsichord (preferably the latter) was used for every performance of 
these motets. 

Four of them {BWV 225-26, 228-29) are written for 8-part double 
chorus. Unlike former composers, Bach does not use a higher and a lower 
chorus, but prescribes two evenly balanced mixed vocal groups. At the 
performances he usually had only one singer for each voice. 

In Filrchte dick nicht Bach sets to music 2 verses from Isaiah. The brisk 
alternation of the two choirs ends at the words 'I am He who has redeemed 
thee,' and a fugue by the 3 lower voices ensues, in which the composer 
symbolizes Jesus' sacrifice with the help of a chromatically descending 
theme (Ex. 35) while the sopranos intone the chorale 'Lord, my Shepherd, 

■Ex 35 


Fount of Gladness.' The result is a work that despite its more traditional 
form surpassed in emotional intensity anything yet written in this field. 

The 5 -part motet Jesu, meine Freude resembles in its construction the 
earlier forms of Bach's chorale cantatas. In its 1 1 numbers, 6 stanzas from 
Johann Franck's hymn alternate with 5 verses from the 8th chapter of the 
Epistle to the Romans. The first and sixth stanzas are presented in almost 
identical four-part harmonizations, while each of the stanzas in between 
is treated in a different manner: as a five-part harmonization, as a kind of 
fantasia, or, in stanza 3, as a strange mixture of homophonic and poly- 
phonic elements only loosely connected with the main tune. Interpreta- 
tion and exegesis are offered after each verse by the appropriate quotation 
from the Bible. To achieve formal symmetry, Bach uses practically the 
same music for the first and fifth insertion, while both the second and the 
fourth are the only pieces in the motet written for 3 parts. Once more 
the two gigantic pillars of Protestantism, gospel and church song, are 
joined, through the power of Bach's spirit, in an edifice of rock-like 

This work, like all the other motets, can only be mastered by per- 
formers of the highest musicianship endowed with a tremendous voice 
range and a capacity for interpreting the countless shades of Bach's emo- 
tional palette. Such difficulties have not discouraged performers; in fact, 
the motets were almost the only vocal compositions by Bach never wholly 
forgotten. Mozart heard Singe t dem Herrn in 1789 in Leipzig, and 'his 
whole soul seemed to be in his ears' (Rochlitz). As early as 1803 five of 


these works were made available in a printed edition. 1 This was not due 
only to the superb musical qualities of the motets; the deep abiding faith 
radiating from them brought to later generations a spiritual sustenance 
badly needed in periods of religious decline. 

Among Bach's vocal compositions the Secular Cantatas play an im- 
portant part. The composer wrote them for special occasions, such as 
weddings, birthdays, and name-days of members of the ruling house, or 
for events at the Leipzig University. Many of them were first played by 
his Collegium Musicum and show clearly in their instrumentation whether 
they were meant for winter performances at the coffee house, or for an 
open-air concert in summer. The dramatic power of Bach's art, an earthy 
sense of humour, and love of nature are strongly in evidence in the 
secular cantatas. 

The exact number of these compositions is not known. The thrifty 
composer did not cherish the idea of having some of his finest music 
performed once only. He used it over and over again, sometimes for other 
secular compositions, but frequently also for sacred works. The Christ- 
mas Oratorio, for instance, to mention only a single example, contains 
music from several secular cantatas. In most cases the new text was, in its 
emotional content, akin to the original words. The 'affections' remained 
the same, even though Divinity might replace a human being in the 
libretto. Bach's time had no qualms in this respect. For a Baroque com- 
poser, as for an artist of the Renaissance, there was no fundamental 
difference between profane and sacred works. Anything that stood artis- 
tically on a high level was suitable as a part of worship. Bach had clearly 
shown this attitude by introducing operatic and concerto elements into his 
church cantatas. A good 'contrafactum,' in which a secular work was 
raised to a higher spiritual level, without changing the prevailing mood, 
has at times been effective in producing some of Bach's finest composi- 
tions. And in the process of adapting earlier compositions to new texts, 
Bach often made considerable changes, modifying the instrumentation, 
adjusting the melodic line, or inventing new counterpoints and modula- 
tions in order to achieve a better co-ordination of word and sound. Never- 
theless it is true that occasionally a new composition had to be written so 
quickly that neither composer nor librettist could give proper care to the 

1 The only one missing was Lobet den Herrn. Printed in its place was Johann 
Christoph Bach's Ich lasse dick nicht, then considered to be a work by Sebastian. 


adaptation, in which case a regrettable discrepancy between the libretto 
and its musical setting was the result. Such instances, are however, not 

To the Weimar period belongs cantata No, 208, Was mir behagt, ist 
nur die muntre Jagd ('The merry chase, the hunt is my delight'), written 
in 171 6 for the birthday of the Duke of Weissenfels, to words by Salomo 
Franck. Its charming da capo aria for 2 recorders and soprano solo 'Sheep 
may safely graze' belongs to the most intimate and delightful pastorales 
Bach ever wrote. The composer used the fresh and attractive music of the 
cantata with more or less changed words at least three times for similar 
purposes. Besides, two of its arias 1 were later enlarged and rewritten for 
the Whitsuntide Cantata No. 68, and the final chorus became the first 
number in Cantata No. 149. 

A product of the Cothen years is the lovely cantata No. 202, Weichet 
nur, betriibte Schatten ('Vanish now, ye winter shadows') for soprano solo, 
oboe, strings, and continuo, which was performed during the wedding 
feast of an unknown couple. Bach offers here a singularly beautiful 
picture of youth and spring. The arpeggios at the beginning, describing 
the gently lifting wintry fog, would hardly seem amiss in the score of 
Haydn's 'Seasons' {Ex. 36). The aria next to the last number resembles a 


passepied, and the place of the traditional final chorale of the church 
cantata is taken here by a gay gavotte, in which all the instruments join 
the soprano to wish the best of luck to the newly married couple. 

The number of secular cantatas written in Cothen seems to be larger 
than is usually assumed. Smend recently listed 2 ten compositions either 
known in their original form or through movements later incorporated 
into church cantatas. The words to three more cantatas have been pre- 
served, though their music has not yet been found. 

Various secular cantatas were written in Leipzig. On August 3, 1725, 
No. 205, the 'Dramma per musica' Der ^ufriedengestellte Aeolus ('The 
pacified Aeolus'), was performed to celebrate the name-day of Dr. 

1 The 'cello theme of one of these arias (BWV 68/ 2) was also used in an instrumental 
movement for violin, flute, and continuo (BWV 1040). 
a Cf. 'Bach in Kothen,' p. 68. 


Augustus Miiller, member of the faculty of Leipzig University. The 
libretto, based partly on Virgil, tells how Aeolus, the God of the winds, 
is planning to release the autumn gales. Zephyrus, the mild west wind, 
and Pomona, the fruit goddess, implore him in vain to wait; but when 
Pallas Athene approaches him and tells him that she is preparing a festivity 
in honour of Dr. Miiller, this impresses the God so strongly that he recalls 
his subjects. Bach's very striking music is unusually richly scored, with 
trumpets, horns, flutes, various oboes and strings, as the work was meant 
for an outdoor performance. The first chorus and the ensuing recitative 
present some of the wildest descriptions of turbulent elements that the 
composer has ever written. Similar in expression is the last aria of Aeolus 
(bass) accompanied by trumpets, timpani and horns, without any wood- 
wind or strings. A most effective contrast is achieved by the aria of 
Zephyrus, whose gentle nature Bach portrays with the help of the silvery 
viola da gamba and the tender viola d'amore. Nine years later the com- 
poser used the same music in honour of another man by the name of 
Augustus, when he celebrated the coronation of the Saxonian Elector, 
Augustus III, as King of Poland. The new text, possibly written by Bach 
himself, substitutes Valour for Aeolus and Justice for Zephyrus. It cannot 
be denied that this substitution is not altogether successful. The text of 
the aria of Justice, for instance, with its shallow praise of the ruler, is not 
in accordance with the peculiarly delicate instrumentation taken over 
from the original. 

Der Streit ^wischen Phoebus und Pan (No. 201, 'The contest between 
Phoebus and Pan'), probably performed in 173 1 by the Collegium Musi- 
cum, is a satiric burlesque by Picander, based on Ovid's 'Metamorphoses,' 
in which Bach ridicules the new trends in music. Phoebus, representing 
tradition, has a singing competition with Pan, the representative of new- 
fangled notions. Among the judges, Tmolus is in favour of Phoebus, 
while Midas prefers Pan's foolish song, and in punishment for his faulty 
judgment is given long donkey's ears. In this Bach had a chance to vent 
his contempt for the aesthetic views held by a younger generation, views 
that were to find before long an eloquent advocate in Johann Adolf 
Scheibe. The ill-advised Midas in praising Pan's song, 1 which he could 
grasp and remember after a single hearing, and in criticizing Phoebus' 
art as too complex, only echoed what Bach had to hear time and again 
from younger musicians. The music to this satire is quite delightful. 
Phoebus' prize-song, prescribing muted strings, oboe d'amore, and flute 

1 This song (No. 7) was also used by Bach with changed words in his 'Peasant 
Cantata,' No. 212. 



for the accompaniment, exhibits great artistry in its intricate rhythmic 
differentiation and dynamic shading. Pan's aria is simple and rather crude 
and is written in the form of a rustic dance; while in the ensuing aria of 
Tmolus there are remarkable dynamic signs. In its first measure the com- 
poser clearly asks for a crescendo, which according to general belief was 
never used by Bach {Ex. 37). When Midas defends his opinion, Bach 



indicates in the music that this was the judgment of a donkey, deserving 
to be punished by the growth of asinine ears. These the singer describes, 
while the violins imitate the braying in a manner similar to Mendelssohn's 
'Midsummer Night's Dream' Overture {Ex. 38). 

**• m jj *r 1 1 r ^H 1 


£ot dc . cor ding io my ears. 

he sings su - per J7y 

Of more general interest and appeal is another humorous work, the 
Coffee Cantata (No. 211), first performed in 1732 by the Collegium Musi- 
cum. To judge by its small orchestra (strings and one flute only), it was 
meant for an indoor performance in winter. Again two generations con- 
front each other, but this time the younger one is victorious. Father 
Schlendrian (whose name Henry S. Drinker aptly translates as 'Old Stick- 
in-the-Mud') is worried because his daughter Liesgen has fallen victim to 
the new craze for coffee drinking. All his attempts to lure her away from 
so detestable a habit by promise or threats are of no avail, until he offers 
her a husband as a bribe. This she enthusiastically accepts, and the father 
rushes off to secure one. Picander's little poem ends at this point. Bach, 
however, had learned only too well from his own family-life that it is not 
so easy to influence the young. He therefore adds a recitative, in which 
Liesgen's plans are revealed; any man who wishes to wed her must consent 
to a clause in the marriage contract entitling her to drink coffee whenever 
she pleases. Finally, there is a short cow of the 3 singers accepting the 
coffee-craze as something inevitable. This amusing libretto is treated by 
Bach in the manner of an oratorio. A 'Historicus' imitating the style of the 
Evangelist in the Passions, explains the plot at the beginning and again 



near the end. In between there are arias and recitatives, and with the help 
of masterly little touches a kind of comic opera is created that makes a 
charming effect both in the concert hall and on the stage. The composer 
succeeds in building up two characters who are very human indeed: a 
grumbling boorish father and an obstinate, wily daughter. The caricature 
of the father is drawn with particular gusto. When the 'Historicus' first 
mentions him, heavy dotted rhythms appear in the bass, with the prescrip- 
tion con pompa, while in the first aria the violins growl to indicate his 
vicious temper. When he later threatens to deprive Liesgen of the fashion- 
able crinoline, Bach indicates its terrific width by the skip of a ninth (Ex. 
39). Liesgen's aria in praise of coffee is a little conventional in its musical 

~3ou will not get 

ctj . no . line o£ mod . ish width Witt -wale . bones 

diction, as though the composer wanted to hint that the girl had adopted 
coffee drinking merely to follow the fashion. In the second aria, however, 
her enthusiasm for a prospective husband is not simulated. The joy she 
expresses in this folksong-like tune in dance rhythm is quite infectious and 
carries the listener away. The composer's earthy nature is manifest in the 
middle section of the aria. During a rather immodest allusion by Liesgen 1 
(meas. 81-89) & e higher instruments are omitted from the accompani- 
ment to ensure that the audience hears every word of it. This aria must 
have sounded particularly funny to the coffee-house audience, when, 
owing to the exclusion of women from such places, a male student, singing 
falsetto, proclaimed his ardent desire for a 'husky hero.' 

There is less artistry and a more popular trend in the Peasant Cantata 
(No. 212) which Bach wrote in 1742 for a rustic celebration held in honour 
of Karl Heinrich v. Dieskau, new lord of the manor of two villages near 
Leipzig. The text of this Cantate en burlesque, as Bach called it, is by 
Picander; it is in Saxon dialect and Bach has given each of the numbers 
the character of a then fashionable dance, such as bourree, mazurka and 



Oh, may you. get ten.thovs.a.nd due. - a.ts for day in the year.. 

polonaise, while the overture is a medley of fragments from various folk- 
dances. Three actual folksongs such as Ex. 40 are even inserted in the 

1 This detail is omitted in any English translation of the work known to the author. 


arias, 1 and Bach aims at similar results with his own tunes. The orchestra, 
in true peasant manner, consists in most of the numbers of only one 
violin, one viola and a double bass (continuo). Equally economical is the 
vocal apparatus: one soprano and one bass. The humorous plot, the very 
limited number of performers, and the unassuming, catchy musical idiom 
clearly indicate that Bach was adopting the language of the new genera- 
tion. Once more he showed that although his main interest belonged to 
older forms he was quite willing at times to forsake his aloofness, and to 
write music so simple and appealing that even his youngest critic could 
not find fault with it. 

Three of Bach's church compositions, written in the middle of the 
thirties, were designated by the composer himself as Oratorios. They are 
the Christmas Oratorio {BWV 248), which, according to the printed 
libretto, was performed in 1734; 2 the oratorio for Ascension Day, 
generally known as cantata No. 11, from approximately the same period; 
and the Easter Oratorio {BWV 249) of 1736. It has been known for a 
long time that parts of the Christmas Oratorio are 'contrafacta' of secular 
cantatas. 3 Friedrich Smend proved the same to be true of the two other 
works of this group. 4 The Easter Oratorio occupies an isolated position 
among Bach's vocal compositions, since it is his only work for the 
church whose entire text consists of a dialogue in rhymes. The Ascen- 
sion Day Oratorio, on the other hand, is not very different from Bach's 

The most important and, at the same time, the most extensive of these 
three works is the Christmas Oratorio. Although it is a series of six can- 
tatas, which were performed on the three Christmas days, New Year's 
day, the following Sunday, and Epiphany, it yet shows unity in its con- 
struction. As in the Passions, sections from the New Testament are 
narrated by an evangelist, while the utterances of individual persons are 
entrusted to soloists, and those of a group to the chorus. Bach interrupts 
the Biblical story again and again with lyrical episodes such as chorales 

1 Bach also did not hesitate to include a melody by Anton Seemann, conductor of 
Count Sporck, in Aria No. 16. 

2 Schering's contention in 'Musikgeschichte Leipzigs,' III, p. 223, that the work 
was performed one year later, has not been sufficiently proved. 

3 Nos. 4, 19, 29, 30, 39, 41 are taken from Cantata No. 213; Nos. 1, 8, 15, 24 from 
Cantata No. 214; No. 47 from Cantata No. 215; No. 45 from the St. Mark Passion. 

4 Cf. AfMf, VII (1942), and 'Bach Gedenkschrift,' 1952. 


2 3 I 

and arias. Thus he creates pure music for the church, serving the purpose 
of edifying and uplifting the congregation. The sequence of keys and the 
orchestration give a kind of rondo-like character to the work. Cantatas 
No. I, III, VI are in the main key of D, and are scored for a big orchestra 
(with trumpets, timpani, woodwind, strings). Nos. II, IV, V, which are 
in the related keys of G, F, and A, do not use trumpets. 

The Christmas Oratorio offers us a chance to study the technique 
employed by Bach in his 'contrafacta.' As model for one of its numbers 
he uses an aria which, in the secular cantata Hercules aufdem Scheidewege 
(No. 213, 'Hercules at the crossroads'), Sensuality sings to young Her- 
cules. It begins with the words 'Sleep, my beloved, enjoy thou thy rest,' 
and accordingly the composer set it as a lullaby. Without compunction he 
could use it for another lullaby in the Christmas Oratorio, starting with 
the words 'Sleep, my beloved, and rest thee a while.' But in the case of 
the aria 'Prepare thyself, Zion' of the Christmas Oratorio it is rather 
different, as a comparison with the original text from 'Hercules' will show. 


I will not regard thee 

but wholly discard thee, 
Contemptible pleasure, 

I value thee not. 
Like the serpent 

who attacked me in my cradle 
Thee will I strangle 

thou serpent, destroy thee. 

Christmas Oratorio 

Prepare thyself, Zion, 

with tender emotion 
The Fairest, the Dearest 

to welcome to thee. 
With what yearning 

must thy heart to-day be burning, 
Welcome thy dear one 

with loving devotion. 

To overcome the emotional disparity between the two texts, Bach 
changed both the scoring and phrasing. The original was for violins I and 
II in unison and continue In the oratorio he omitted violin II and re- 
placed it by the tender oboe d'amore. At the same time the bassoon was 
added to the bass. The threatening 'unisono e staccato' in the secular 


Hercules <a< the Crossroads 

unisono e St4.cce.i0 

Christmas Oratorio 

cantata was, with the help of slurs and appogiaturas, transformed into a 
caressing tune (Ex. 41). The winding line in the bass used in 'Hercules' to 


portray the snake was not conspicuous enough to call for a change. Thus 
Bach achieved a successful adaptation with a minimum of effort. 

It is hard to single out individual numbers of this masterpiece. Among 
the highlights is the Sinfonia at the beginning of the second part; a 
Siciliano of singular beauty, akin in character to the Sinfonia Pastorale in 
Handel's 'Messiah,' but deviating from it significantly in its more intricate 
orchestration and texture. The treatment of the chorales is also out- 
standing. At the end of the second cantata the chorus sings the tune of 
'From heaven above to earth I come,' while the orchestra again intones 
the enraptured Pastorale of the beginning. Although the general mood of 
the oratorio is one of exultation, the thought of Christ's sacrifice also 
plays an important role. The Passion-hymn 'Oh sacred head now 
wounded' appears both as the first and as the ultimate chorale of the whole 
oratorio; thus emphasizing that only through the death of Jesus did the 
birth of the heavenly child result in the salvation of mankind. 

In its original form the Magnificat (BWV 243) was also meant for a 
performance at Christmas. In this version, written in 1723, the Bible text 
(Luke i, 46-55) was repeatedly interrupted by chorales, Christmas songs, 
etc. Around the year 1730 Bach revised the composition, changing its key 
from Eb to D, altering the instrumentation, and eliminating the insertions; 
thus making the work suitable for performance on other occasions. In its 
definitive form the Magnificat, except for the concluding Gloria, contains 
nothing but Mary's Hymn, from the Vulgate. It is one of the most com- 
pact compositions by Bach, imbued with joy and exultation, and radiating 
the same happy optimism which had found so irresistible an expression in 
the Brandenburg Concertos. The brief movements (lasting an average of 
3 minutes) are clearly united in three groups, each starting with an aria 
and ending with a full chorus. The individual sections are framed by the 
mighty initial Magnificat chorus and the concluding Gloria, which, at the 
words Sicut erat inprincipio ('As it was in the beginning'), quotes the music 
of the first number. 1 Each individual piece, in spite of its brevity, has its 
own clearly defined emotional character. The first Magnificat, scored for 
full orchestra (trumpets, timpani, woodwind, strings, organ) and five- 
part chorus, carries us away with its brilliance and exuberance. An over- 
whelming effect is produced later, in the aria for alto solo, Quia respexit 

1 In the motet, Jesu, meine Freude, also written in 1723, we find the same device. 
Here too the beginning and end of the composition are musically alike. 


('For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden'), when at the 
words omnes generationes ('all generations shall call me blessed') the full 
chorus suddenly cuts the solo voice short. Of transcendent beauty is the 
trio for 2 sopranos and alto Suscepit Israel ('He hath holpen his servant 
Israel') to which the 2 oboes intone in unison, like a cantus firmus, the 
venerable Magnificat tune. Only Sebastian Bach could write a com- 
position so strict in form and yet so tender and ethereal. To the following 
Sicut locutus est ('As he spake to our fathers') the composer gives an old- 
fashioned motet character by writing a vocal fugue, unaccompanied by 
the orchestra, to stress the connection with the past. After this austere 
piece, the re-entrance of the orchestra in the ensuing Gloria is all the more 
dazzling. Twice the voices rise in a mighty arc to glorify the Father and 
the Son. At the words et Spiritui sancto the melodic line is inverted to 
symbolize the descent of the Holy Ghost. Here the entrance of the 
trumpets leads to the climax of the work, triumphantly proclaiming in its 
music 'My soul doth magnify the Lord.' 

According to the Necrology Bach wrote five Passions, but only two 
of them have actually been preserved: the Passions according to St. John 
and according to St. Matthew. The earlier of these is the St. John Passion 
{BWV 245), which the composer wrote while still in Cothen in order 
to present it on Good Friday, 1723, at Leipzig. For four subsequent per- 
formances under Bach's direction, the composer made various alterations. 
Basically the work already shows the construction to be found in the later 
Passion and in the Christmas Oratorio (cf. p. 230). The main part of the 
text is supplied by the Bible, in this case taken from St. John xviii-xix 
(with short insertions from St. Matthew). The narration is done in recita- 
tive form by a tenor, the Evangelist; individual characters, including Christ, 
are sung by soloists; and utterances of the crowds by the chorus. Arias 
inserted in between express the reaction of the individual to the events 
described, and chorales that of the whole congregation. The work is in 
two sections, to be performed before and after the sermon. It seems that 
Bach himself was responsible for the selection of the chorales, and that he 
also provided the texts for the arias. In these he often followed the model 
of a text by the Hamburg Councillor, Barthold Heinrich Brockes, Derfiir 
die Siinde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus ('Jesus tortured and 
dying for the sin of the world'), which had been set to music by Handel, 1 

1 Bach owned a copy of Handel's work. 


Telemann, Mattheson, Keiser and others. But even in these pieces Bach 
never copied Brockes literally, and, in particular, he did not adopt the 
poet's rhymed paraphrases of the Bible text. Moreover, he included some 
words from J. G. Postel's 'St. John Passion,' which Handel had set to 
music at the age of 19. Bach apparently knew this score, as there are a few 
slight analogies between the two works. 1 

An interesting peculiarity of Bach's score is the repeated use of the 
same music for various short choruses of the crowds. Some pieces are 
employed twice, one (No. 3, 'J esu s of Nazareth') with little variations 
as often as five times (also in Nos. 5, 29, 46, and in the accompaniment of 
No. 25). It has been suggested that lack of time in preparing the score for 
the first performance caused Bach to adopt this method. Had this been 
the case, the composer could easily have remedied this deficiency when he 
subsequently revised the work. Actually, these repetitions are indispens- 
able for the architectural plan of the whole work as Bach had conceived it. 
In order to achieve the 'chiastic' arrangement which was one of Bach's 
favourite forms throughout his life (cf. p. 202), the composer distributed 
related choruses in widely separated sections of his score. To take, for 
instance, the 'heart-piece' 2 of the second part: the chorus No. 29, the 
solos Nos. 31/32, and the chorus No. 34 form a unit that recurs with 
similar music in Nos. 46, 48, 50. 3 The chorus No. 36 corresponds to 
No. 44, and No. 38 is practically identical with No. 42. In the centre 
of the section is a chorale (No. 40), just as chorales (Nos. 27 and 52) 
frame the whole 'heart-piece.' The overall arrangement is therefore 


27 29,31/2,34 36 38 40 42 44 46,48,50 52 

The perfect symmetry of form is matched by inexhaustible harmonic 
imagination in the chorales and a tremendous power of expression. It is 
hard to decide what to admire more in this score: the pithy, exciting 
choruses, creating a weird picture of the turgid crowds, or the intensely 
dramatic, at times almost violent recitatives. How stirring, for instance, is 
the recitative depicting the tears of Peter after his denial of the Lord, 
which is followed by the aria in f sharp minor expressing man's confusion 
and desolation! This first large work by the new music director must have 

1 Handel's Passion is available in a Swiss recording conducted by B. Henking. 

2 Cf. Smend in BJ, 1926. 

8 The numbers in between, not mentioned here, are those of the connecting 


sounded strange indeed to the ears of the Leipzig congregation, accus- 
tomed as they were to Kuhnau's gentle tunes. 

In later years Bach felt it was necessary to improve this youthful com- 
position. The final visionary chorale was added, and the soulful intro- 
ductory chorale fantasia 'O man, thy grievous sins bemoan' 1 was replaced 
by a powerful da capo chorus. On the other hand, the beautiful aria and 
chorale which originally followed No. 1 5 were altogether omitted in the 
interests of structural cohesion. The aria 'Do not writhe, tormented 
souls,' with its somewhat exaggerated pictorialism, was supplanted by a 
poignant arioso with following aria (Nos. 31/32) to which the accompani- 
ment of 2 viole d'amore and lute added mellowness. In making this 
change Bach achieved an overwhelming contrast between the crude picture 
of tortured Jesus and the unearthly bliss derived from His sacrifice. This 
arioso reveals, with an intensity only rarely equalled in Bach's works, the 
composer's innermost faith. 

Bach performed his St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) for the first 
time on Good Friday, 1729. 2 We do not know how long he was engaged 
in the tremendous task of its composition, but while still working on the 
Passion news reached him that on November 19, 1728, his beloved friend, 
Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, had suddenly died, and that he was 
expected to supply and perform a funeral music at the memorial service 
in the following spring. Nothing seemed more appropriate than to use 
parts of his sublime new work for this purpose, and so Picander, the 
librettist of the St. Matthew Passion, was requested to paraphrase the 
text of nine pieces 3 from it. The funeral cantata Klagt, Kinder ('Lament, O 
children' \BWV 244a 4 ) was played on March 24, 1729 at Cothen. Shortly 
afterwards the mighty Passion itself resounded at St. Thomas'. 

The St. Matthew Passion represents the climax of Bach's music for 

1 It was instead inserted into the St. Matthew Passion as the concluding number of 
the first part. 

2 Schering's theory that the performance of the St. Matthew Passion did not take 
place until 1731 and that the St. Mark Passion was played in 1729 (cf. BJ, 1939) can no 
longer be upheld, in spite of the many psychological reasons which seem to corroborate 
the later date. Smend pointed out in BJ, 1940-48 that Zelter, in the programme notes to 
the first Berlin performance of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829, referred to the 'old 
church text,' evidently the church programme of the Passion, in his possession, which was 
clearly dated 1729. 

3 They are Nos. 10, 47, 58, 66, 29, 26, 75, 19, 78. 

4 Smend, I.e., proved from the Cothen account books that not one but two funeral 
cantatas were performed on this occasion, one on March 23 at night, the other on March 
24. Of the first no trace has been found yet, but it is evidendy the work to which Forkel 
alludes in his Bach Biography, praising its 'double choruses of uncommon magnificence.' 
The score which Forkel owned has been missing since 1818. 


the Protestant Church. It uses the largest performing apparatus and is in 
scope one of the composer's most extensive works. Bach's own concep- 
tion of its importance is clearly revealed in the exquisite score he made of 
it after 1740, one which is unique even among his many beautiful manu- 
scripts. He worked on it with ruler and compass, and he used red ink for 
the Bible words to distinguish the divine message from the rest of the 
text. The composer wanted this Passion to be of general appeal, and in- 
deed there is in this work a simplicity and directness not often to be found 
in Bach's larger compositions. The motto which Beethoven placed in 
front of his Missa Solemnis — 'It comes from the heart — may it go to 
the heart' — can well be applied to this work also. 

Although the basic elements are once more the same, the 'Passion 
according to St. John' and that 'according to St. Matthew' are highly 
different in character. In the later composition vehemence and violence 
no longer dominate. The work radiates tenderness and love; harsh con- 
trasts are toned down, and a heart-stirring blend of bliss and grief such as 
only Bach could create, prevails throughout the composition. According 
to the Gospel, the Christ of the St. John Passion was endowed with 
sublime calm and remoteness. The gospel of St. Matthew, however, 
allowed Bach to express his own fervent Jesusminne. Here there is no un- 
bridgeable gap between the human and the divine; the Lord approaches 
mankind in His suffering, and mankind suffers with Him. While in the 
earlier Passion the utterances of Christ are in recitatives accompanied by 
the organ only, the St. Matthew Passion, following the example of Schiitz 
and Telemann, uses a string quartet to surround the personality of the 
Lord with a kind of halo. 1 Only once is this recitative transformed into an 
arioso: when at the last supper Jesus explains the mystic significance of 
bread and wine. And only once are the accompanying strings silenced: 
when Christ in agony cries out 'My God, why hast Thou forsaken me ?' 
the halo is extinguished. 

In accordance with the great store Bach set by the work, he had re- 
course to a wealth of executants far exceeding that in the St. John 
Passion, indeed hardly used in any of his other compositions. In its 
definitive form the St. Matthew Passion employs 2 mixed choruses, 2 
orchestras, and another group of boy-singers for the cantus firmus of the 
first chorus. The use of the two choirs is scrupulously indicated in the 
score. If there are no independent parts for each of the 8 voices, Bach 
prescribes which choir should perform an individual number, or whether 

1 This very apt comparison was coined a century ago by Winterfeld in his 'Evangel- 
ischer Kirchengesang.' 


they should join forces. The composer's zest for experimenting and for 
mingling stylistic elements found ample satisfaction in this work. The 
recitatives of the Evangelist, accompanied by basses and organ only, 
speak an exciting tonal language, such as had hardly been conceived 
before. For certain occasions, as the crying of Peter, the recitative 
changes to a melisma of deep intensity. At times the bass accompaniment 
matches the highly dramatic narration; for instance, in the famous de- 
scription of the rending of the Temple veil and the earthquake after the 
death of Christ. Among the gems of the score are the accompanied recita- 
tives preceding the arias. These brief ariosos contain some of the most 
exquisite music Bach ever wrote, such as No. 74, 'At even, sweet, cool 
hour of rest,' which, quite in the romantic manner, links the stillness of 
evening with the peace achieved through Jesus' death. In two cases recita- 
tives are combined with choral numbers. In No. 25, 'Ah woe, how 
trembles His tormented heart,' an accompanied recitative alternates with 
verses from a chorale, a technique Bach was to employ in his late chorale 
cantatas. Similarly in No. 77, 'And now the Lord is laid to rest,' each of the 
four soloists in a brief arioso says a tender farewell to the Master, and in 
between the chorus sings a deeply moving refrain. 

The arias are often arranged as duets between a singer and an instru- 
ment of approximately the same range. No. 58, for instance, 'For love, oh 
my Saviour,' is scored for soprano voice and solo flute, and, to enhance 
its poignant character, the accompaniment is provided by 2 oboi da caccia 
(English horns) without any strings or organ. In the aria No. 26 for tenor 
solo and chorus, Bach's feeling for pictorialism makes a characteristic 
excursion into the realm of numbers. The tenor, representing Peter, sings 
'Yea, I will watch with Jesus gladly.' The chorus adds the refrain, 'So all 
our sins have gone to sleep' ten times, once for each of the remaining 
disciples (except the absent Judas) who are gradually succumbing to sleep. 
Similarly the duet with chorus (No. 33) after Christ's capture can be inter- 
preted as the expression of grief by two distressed disciples, who are being 
interrupted by nine (three times three) brief ejaculations of the chorus 
'Loose Him — Halt ye — Bind Him not,' one for each of the remaining 
followers of the Lord. This leads us finally to the well-known chorus 
'Lord, not I?' after Jesus has said that one of His disciples will betray Him. 
The same question is asked eleven times, and Bach thus implies that each 
of the disciples, except Judas, raises his voice. 

In the St. Matthew Passion the composer avoids the repetition of 
music in the crowd scenes that played so important a part in the structure 
of the St. John Passion. The variety in these choruses is quite over- 


whelming. Stupid slander could hardly have been better portrayed than 
in the canon (No. 39), in which one false witness slavishly repeats every 
word of the other witness's accusation. How stunning are the 3 powerful 
chords used at the word 'Barrabas'; the senseless fury of the crowd in 
'Let Him be crucified,' ending abruptly in an unexpected key; and the 
increasing vigour in the 8-part chorus (No. 67) 'Saviour was He of others,' 
in which the 2 choruses at first respond to each other, then join forces, and 
end in a weird unison, accusing Jesus of blasphemy for having said 'I am 
God's own son' (Ex. 42). 

v — 


TMs man has V I am 

i J> k 

J A 


Cjod's own 6o7i . 


r m P p p 

The chorale tunes, on the other hand, are repeated in this work even 
more frequently than in the earlier Passion. Bach's favourite, 'Oh sacred 
Head now wounded' appears no less than five times in different places, 
with words and harmonization superbly matching the mood of the 
moment. In the selection of the venerable tunes and texts, and in the 
choice of their appropriate position within the score, Bach shows a 
poetical power and insight given only to one who was the product of 
many generations of Protestant church musicians. 1 

In the initial number of the St. Matthew Passion Bach introduced a 
chorale melody as a cantus firmus. It was played by the organ in the first 
performances, but was later taken over by a separate boys' choir. This is 
the most elaborate piece of the whole composition. Two wildly excited 
groups confront each other with terse questions and sorrowful answers, 
against a background of floods of tears, suggested by the heaving and 
milling orchestra. Above the passionate grief of humanity thus depicted 
rises the crystal-clear, serene church tune, thus setting the stage for this 
work on mortal frailty and divine strength. 

Of the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247), first performed on Good 
Friday 173 1, only Picander's libretto has been preserved. A small part of 
the composition has survived, however, in other sacred works. Two 
choruses and three arias originated with the Trauer-Ode (Cantata 198, 

1 Picander omits the chorales in his edition of the libretto, thus indicating that they 
were not chosen by him. 


written in 1727 in memory of the Electress Christiane Eberhardine (cf. 
p. 173); one aria is to be found in Cantata 54; and one chorus in the 
Christmas Oratorio. About the two other Passions nothing definite is 
known. The St. Luke Passion {BWV 246) printed by BG is in all likeli- 
hood not by Bach. 

Around the year 1737 the composer wrote 4 short Masses {BWV 
233-36) consisting of Kyrie and Gloria only. Most of their numbers are 
only adaptations from earlier church cantatas. The Mass in G, for instance, 
is based on choruses, arias, and a duet from Cantatas 17, 79, 138, and 179. 
The Kyrie of the Mass in F, one of the few movements which is not a 
'contrafactum,' gives the ancient melody of the Litany to the bass voices, 
while at the same time horns and oboes intone, as an additional cantus 
firmus, the chorale tune Ckriste, du Lamm Gottes ('Christ, Thou Lamb of 
God'); a remarkable attempt to bring elements of the Protestant and 
Catholic services into an artistic whole. 1 

A similar venture of far greater significance had been made by Bach 
in an earlier work. In 1733 he composed a Kyrie to mourn the death of 
Augustus 'the Strong' and a Gloria to celebrate the ascension to the throne 
of Augustus III (cf. p. 184). Subsequently he expanded the work into 
a complete setting of the Latin Ordinary of the Mass, the only one of its 
kind he has left us. It seems that Bach, the protagonist of Protestant music, 
did not see anything inappropriate in this action. He knew that Luther 
had never entirely removed the Latin Mass from the Protestant service, 
and that sections from it were still used in his own time. Above all, he 
wanted to write a work that spoke to the whole of Christianity. The 
composition known as the Mass in B minor {BWV 232) is a monumental 
work of lofty grandeur abounding in forms of intricate technical mastery, 
such as a superb passacaglia, highly artistic fugues with stretti, augmenta- 
tions, and other devices of the strict contrapuntal style. There is an awe- 
inspiring remoteness in this work, and only when the text refers to Jesus 
does the musical idiom assume a more personal and intimate character. 
Thus the duet Chris te eleison ('Christ have mercy on us') radiates ethereal 
bliss and ecstatic longing, in marked contrast to the first and the second 
Kyrie eleison which address God the Father and God the Holy Ghost in a 
spirit of sadness, guilt, and despair. Similarly the two choruses Qui tollis 

1 The 5 'Sancti' which are preserved in Bach's own hand {BWV 237-41) are believed 
to be mainly arrangements of works by other composers. 


peccata mundi ('Which taketh away the sins of the world') and Et incarnatus 
est ('And was made man') are both simple, heart-stirring compositions, 
fervently expressing Bach's Jesusminne. 

The composer did not hesitate to include in the Mass numerous 
'contrafacta' of movements from his church cantatas, and at least 9 of the 
24 numbers of the score are remodelled from earlier works closely related 
in content. Not one of these adaptations is mechanically done; indeed, 
each of them shows a higher degree of perfection than its model. The 
Expecto resurrectionem mortuorum ('I look for the resurrection of the dead') 
is taken from Cantata 120, Gott man lobet, using the second movement 
'Shout ye, all ye joyful voices.' While the orginal contains a 4-part chorus 
only, with supreme mastery Bach adds a fifth obbligato part, which in a 
completely natural way enriches the polyphonic texture. The Crucifixus 
is a famous example; it is based on a passacaglia from cantata 12, JVeinen, 
Klagen, and was given its exquisite ending, modulating from minor to 
major, only in the Mass. In making this addition, Bach not only prepares 
for the glory of the immediately following Etresurrexit ('And rose again'); 
but he thus has 13 variations instead of the original 12 and so symbolizes 
the tragedy by that ill-fated number. 1 

As Bach in this work went back to a time when the Christian Church 
was as yet undivided, he felt the inclusion of venerable forms of the past 
to be appropriate. The Credo, for instance, in its first and last sections uses 
the melodies of the Gregorian chant in grandiose fugues of a definitely 
antiquated motet character. Moreover, the frequent 5 -part choruses and 
the old-fashioned alia breve rhythms (4/2) in several sections enhance the 
retrospective aspect of this music. 

On the other hand there is no lack of contemporary forms either. The 
Mass contains arias equipped with the coloraturas of the Italian opera, and 
superb duets in the style of Agostino Steffani. These numbers, too, afford 
a deep insight into Bach's mentality. In the duet Et in unum Dominum 
Jesum Christum filium Dei unigenitum ('And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
the only-begotten Son of God'), the mystic unity of the Father and 
His Son Jesus Christ is symbolized by an imitation in unison which 
presently turns into a canon at the fourth. The gentle duet of the oboi 
d'amore in the aria No. 18 for bass, with its reference to unam sanctam 
Catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam ('One Holy Catholic and Apostolic 
Church'), is particularly beautiful. Since this forms part of the Creed 

1 Smend points out that with the help of the figure alphabet (cf. p. 203) the word 
'Credo' can be expressed as 43. It is significant that in the Credo movement of Bach's Mass 
the word 'Credo' appears 43 times. 


accepted by all Christian denominations, it might well be that the peaceful 
dialogue of the two 'love oboes' is intended to signify harmony and under- 
standing between Catholics and Protestants. 

In spite of heterogeneous stylistic elements in this Mass, Bach succeeds 
in giving it unity and cohesion. It is true that the original score consists of 
four sections. The composer inscribed as Missa the Kyrie and Gloria 
which he handed to Augustus III, Elector of Saxony. The Credo bears in 
the autograph the title Symholum Nicenum. The third section is the 
Sanctus, and the fourth comprises the remaining movements, Osanna, 
Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Dona nobis pacetn. Each of the first three sections 
shows a well-balanced structure. In the Symbolum Nicenum, for instance, 
the Crucifixus is the 'heart-piece.' It is preceded and followed by a 
chorus {Et incarnatus est, Et resurrexii). These 3 numbers are flanked 
by solo pieces; a duet and an aria respectively. At the beginning of the 
Symbolum, and at the end, are the mighty double pillars of connected 
choruses, in each of which Gregorian chants form the melodies of the 
first half. 

Looking at the work as a whole, we find that the name of Mass in B 
minor, which is generally used in modern times, is not justified. The com- 
position comprises 12 movements in D and only 5 in b. D is the key of 
the jubilant, resplendent Gloria and of the majestic Credo (here inter- 
mingled with the mixolydian mode). In D also is the dazzling Easter- 
piece of the Resurrexit and the awe-inspiring Sanctus, in which Heaven 
and Earth seem to resound with the praise of the Lord. (The six parts of 
this chorus may have been inspired by the six wings of the Seraphims in 
Isaiah vi.) Each section of the whole work ends in D and all, except the 
first, start in it. The predominance of this brilliant key holds the individual 
sections firmly together. To this should be added the fact that the last 
number, Dona nobis pacem ('Grant us peace'), uses the same music as the 
chorus Gratias agimus tibi ('We give Thee thanks'), which stands in the 
very centre of the Mass. This connection is of more than musical signi- 
ficance. Bach felt that he did not have to implore his maker for peace, and 
instead thanked Him for granting it to the true believer. In this way the 
composer also concluded his Mass with the expression of gratitude tradi- 
tional in the Lutheran service. 

Owing to its colossal dimensions this work fits into neither the 
Protestant nor the Catholic church service. Yet it is one of the greatest 
manifestations of the religious spirit and belongs, together with Beet- 
hoven's Missa Solemnis, to the immortal documents of man's quest for 
the eternal truths. 




Organ music accompanied Bach throughout his whole life. Among his 
earliest compositions were works for the 'king of instruments' and his last, 
which the master, nearly blind, dictated to his son-in-law, Altnikol, was 
an organ chorale. Since the principal aim of Bach's art was to magnify the 
Lord, the organ offered him the most direct way by which to pursue his 
goal, without the co-operation of other musicians. Almost every one of 
the more than 200 works he wrote for the organ was designed for 
liturgical purposes. 

The master's contemporaries held him in awe as one of the greatest 
virtuosi on the organ. They eagerly sought his advice on the building 
of new and the remodelling of old instruments. Our time sees in Bach 
the unmatched master of organ composition. In these works, 16th- and 
17th-century music reaches its climax, while later generations feebly 
attempted to regain and reproduce parts of its lost grandeur. 

As in other fields of Bach's creative output, it is impossible to deter- 
mine the exact date of composition of most of his organ works. Neverthe- 
less, the stylistic features of these compositions enable us to establish 
certain significant patterns for each of his creative periods. The situation 
is somewhat complicated by the fact that Bach often revised and rewrote 
organ compositions many years after their first conception. If such works 
reflect the features of the period in which they received their final form, 
they will be discussed with the compositions of that phase. 

The works of the First Creative Period axe typical of a young composer 
who is trying to find himself and to master the intricacies of his craft. 
Bach was always eager to learn from others, but naturally this tendency 
was never as apparent and predominant as in the works of his youth. 
The incipient organist studied the works of his own clan, among them 
especially the compositions of Johann Christoph (13) and Johann Bern- 
hard (18). Next to his relatives, the great masters of keyboard music in 
Italy and Southern, Central and, most of all, Northern Germany were his 
models. He copied and imitated their music, sometimes barely reaching 
their level, and only rarely surpassing it. His musical language is often 
voluble, his harmonic and polyphonic technique immature, a sense of 
balance and form as yet undeveloped. It is typical of the uneven character 
of Bach's early organ works that, while some of them contain very diffi- 
cult and brilliant pedal parts, others dispense with the pedals altogether. 

j. Sebastian's organ works (before 1708) 243 

Nevertheless these works of the young Bach are anything but unattractive. 
They are highly emotional, exuberant and, in their subjective expressive- 
ness, typical products of a growing young genius. Bach's first period 
shows a definite resemblance to that of Brahms, whose early compositions 
compensate for their lack of formal perfection by their stirring and 
passionate content. 

There are two main groups of organ works by Bach: those which are 
freely invented, and those which are based on some chorale. The former 
group consists of a number of Preludes or Toccatas with Following 
Fugues. The free preludes and toccatas frequently reflect the brilliant 
Venetian style of Merulo and the Gabrielis, which was passed on to Bach 
through the fantastic art of the Liibeck master, Dietrich Buxtehude, and 
his follower, Georg Bohm. North German influence may also be detected 
in the loose and rhapsodic construction of the fugues. Good examples of 
Bach's Liineburg period (1700- 1703) are furnished by the Preludes and 
Fugues in a andc (P. Ill/ 84 and IV/36, BWV 5 5 1, 549). The work in a for 
instance is a kind of toccata, a show-piece, containing in its middle part 
two fugal sections. The brief first fugue, consisting of 17 bars only, uses 
a gaily rambling theme of the Buxtehude type (Ex. 43), without any 

■f- ftp -f-p f'Pf'f.f'.fBP* &+ f Mr* 

attempt at serious elaboration. The second fugue seems to employ a new 
theme, but this subject is accompanied by a running counter-melody which, 
as the piece proceeds, gains in importance and at the same time increas- 
ingly resembles the theme of the first fugue. Even in this very primitive 
composition, Bach's attempt to unify the different sections of his com- 
position is apparent. 

An effective thematic interrelation between three successive move- 
ments is achieved in the Fantasy in G (P. IX/25, BWV 571). 1 The last 
movement culminates in an 'ostinato' figure consisting of 5 stepwise 
descending notes, which appear not only in the bass but also in the soprano 

1 The authenticity of the Fantasy has been doubted, but the present writer feels 
inclined to consider it as a work of young Bach. Altogether the composer's organ music 
still presents unsolved problems in this respect. Some of the works that the 19th century 
considered as compositions by Johann Sebastian are recognized to-day as the works of 
others, while in several cases the question is yet unsetded. The organ chorales P. VI/3 and 
62 {BWV 693, 748), for instance, might be by J. G. Walther. The chorale partita 
BWV 771, which Hull considered one of the finest works by the young Bach, is in all 
likelihood by A. N. Vetter, while P. IX/38 {BWV 585) and P. VIII/48 {BWV 553-60) 
are probably by J. L. Krebs. Cf. Keller in BJ, 1937. 


and alto parts. This is the earliest example of Bach's use of a technique 
that was to reach its magnificent climax in the great Passacaglia in c. 

The Toccata and Fugue in d (P. IV/27, BWV 565) is the most 
striking work of the Arnstadt period. 1 Bach's dependence on models is as 
easily traceable here as in any other composition of his first period. The 
toccata sections at the beginning and end of the work are strongly rhap- 
sodic. The freely flowing fugue in the centre is loosely constructed with 
runs and broken chord episodes separating the different entrances of the 
theme. Obviously Bach wishes to maintain the predominant character of 
brilliant improvisation even in the middle section. The theme seems to be 
inspired by a technique adopted from the violin, that of playing simul- 
taneously on two neighbouring strings, a procedure Bach was often to 
employ in his music for keyboard instruments. The Toccata's torrents 
of sound and dazzling fireworks have made Pirro see the work as a piece 
of programme music describing the fury of the elements in a thunder- 
storm, yet there is a masterly craftsmanship underlying all this outpouring 
of the emotions. The work was written by an organist who had so deep an 
insight into the possibilities of his instrument that he was able to produce 
the most powerful effects without unduly taxing the technical abilities of 
the player. In its intensity and exuberance this is clearly a product of Bach's 
'Storm and Stress' period, but there is no youthful groping and un- 
certainty in it. 

Among the Organ Chorales of the first period three main types may 
be discerned: (a) the chorale fughetta (short fugue); (b) the chorale- 
fantasy; (c) the chorale partita (chorale variations). Some of the Chorale 
Fughettas closely follow earlier models. For instance, Herr Jesu Christ, dich 
iu uns wend' ('Lord Jesus Christ, I turn to Thee'; B WV 749X 2 which treats 
the hymn tune partly as a fugal subject and partly as a basis for free imita- 
tions, is fashioned after the arrangement of the same chorale by Johann 
Christoph Bach. Other chorale fughettas introduce, in addition, a 
counter-subject that is preserved throughout the whole prelude, thus 
firmly linking together the different sections of the work. In Vom Himmel 
hoch ('From Heaven above'; P. VII/54, BWV 701), for instance, the 
chorale melody is accompanied by a running counter-subject (Ex. 44) 
which is maintained all through the composition, possibly to express the 
fluttering of the angels' wings in this Christmas prelude. 3 

1 It seems more likely that the work was written in Arnstadt rather than in Weimar, 
as some scholars have assumed. 

2 Cf. also BJVV-7-yO and 756. 

3 Somewhat similar in construction are the Fughettas P. V/7, 18, 20, 23, 39, 43 {BWV 
696-99, 703, 704). 

j. Sebastian's organ works (before 1708) 245 

In his chorale fughettas, as in various organ works of his youth, Bach 
omits the pedal altogether; and a very modest use of the pedal may also 

: ^m^ 

be observed in the only Chorale Fantasy he ever wrote, based on Christ 
lag in Todesbanden ('Christ lay in Death's dark prison'; P. VI/15, BWV 
718). This type of composition, which deals with the complete melody 
of the chosen hymn, treating each verse in a different manner, was a 
favourite with North German masters, whereas Johann Christoph Bach 
and Pachelbel ignored it. The direct model for Sebastian's chorale fantasy 
was one composed by Georg Bohm on the same melody; 1 however, it is 
also easy to detect references to the style of two masters from Liibeck. 
Sebastian starts with a richly ornamented treatment of the first two lines 
of the chorale; the third line he develops as a brief fugato, the fourth as a 
kind of gigue in 12/8 time in imitation of similar movements by Buxte- 
hude, and in the fifth line he uses the mystical echo-like effects so dear 
to Buxtehude's father-in-law, Franz Tunder. 

On a much larger scale than the chorale fughettas and the fantasy are 
the highly imaginative and exuberant Partite Diverse, for which Johann 
Bernhard Bach's (cf. p. 100) and Georg Bohm's Partite seem to have been 
the direct models. Sebastian's variations on Christ, der du bist der helle Tag 
('0 Christ who art the Light of Day'; P. V/60, BWV 766) and Gott, du 
frommer Gott ('0 God, Thou Holy God'; P. V/68, BWV 767) bear all the 
traces of an early origin. The pedal is only rarely used and then ad libitum, 
and the harmonization of the chorale melody is at its beginning rather 
clumsy, with frequent repetitions of tonic and dominant and heavy 5- 
and 6-part chords on the weak beat (Ex. 45). Sei gegriisset, Jesu giitig 

Xx hs Qott, du frommer Gott 

(Thee I greet, Thy love I treasure'; P. V/76, BWV 768) which may 
have originated in the same period, clearly shows traces of a later revision; 

1 Samtliche Werke, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hartel, 1927, vol. II, p. 98. 


it displays the youthful fervour of the other sets, but is not marred by 
their weaknesses. 

During the nine years the composer spent in Weimar (1708-17), he 
was primarily an organist, and the majority of his organ compositions 
were written or at least conceived there. This Second Creative Period was a 
typical phase of transition. Bach's output comprised a substantial number 
of studies and transcriptions, which served him as a means of widening 
his artistic horizon and of becoming fully conversant with new types of 
musical expression. But towards the end of this period the composer 
gained such stylistic perfection that it is often difficult to draw the line, 
and to determine whether a given organ composition belongs to this 
phase or to the following period of full maturity. 

In Weimar Bach was at first a student of the Italians. In Liineburg and 
Arnstadt their works had reached him only in versions transformed and 
remodelled by German composers. In Weimar he had the chance of 
making a direct study of their compositions. The effect on Bach was 
somewhat similar to that which Italian art had exercised on the foremost 
German painter, Albrecht Diirer. The serene and well-balanced works of 
the Adriatic peninsula helped the two masters to find themselves. They 
discarded the excessive harshness and angularity of the North, and re- 
placed it by a plastic clarity and a simple structure. Eventually Bach 
completely assimilated Italian music, and, by fusing it with his own 
contrapuntal heritage and the Northern idiom, he created what we now 
regard as the typical Bach style. 

The transcriptions and studies of the Weimar period begin with a 
number of Arrangements of Violin Concertos both for the clavier and for 
the organ. Apparently Bach was encouraged to do this work by studying 
similar arrangements which his friend and relative, the organist J. Georg 
Walther, made at about that time in Weimar. Bach transcribed for the organ 
one concerto and a separate movement {P. VIII/2, 44; BWV 592, 595) 
written by the talented Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar, himself a faithful 
disciple of the Italians, as well as three concerti by Vivaldi (P. VIII/10, 22; 
the third arrangement is usually printed under the name of Friedemann 
Bach; BWV 593, 594, 596). 1 As a rule Sebastian adheres faithfully to the 

1 Friedemann wrote on the title-page of Sebastian's autograph: 'di W. F. Bach, manu 
mei patris descript.' (by W. F. Bach, copied by my father). The actual facts were clarified 
by Max Schneider in BJ, 191 1. 

j. Sebastian's organ works (1708-1717) 


text of the original composition. He was strongly impressed by the 
natural grace of the Italian style and fascinated by the results that could 
be achieved by using Vivaldi's Concerto form in a work for organ solo. 
These transcriptions also confirmed his conviction that the violin idiom 
could be employed to good advantage in keyboard compositions. At the 
same time it is obvious that Bach had no intention of mechanically trans- 
ferring into his works every note of his model. His new versions strengthen 
the harmony and introduce — particularly in the middle parts and bass — 
small rhythmical and contrapuntal details which lend significance to the 
composition (Ex. 46). In the C major Concerto Bach went even further; 



The large notes represent VrtaWf 5 origins^ ihesmtflona 23cKs additions. 

In tie first mtaiure Bac7i replaced the (_' Urge) eighth noitc e! TinUihy (emill) sixteenth, Tides. 

he made considerable changes in the cadenzas of the first and third move- 
ments, and replaced the middle movement by a kind of German toccata. 

Another type of work following Italian models may be found in the 
Allabreve (P. VIII/72, BWV 589) and particularly in the Caniona in d 
(P. IV/58, BWV 588). These are works reflecting the influence of the 
great Italian organ master Frescobaldi whose Fiori Musicali Bach copied 
in 1714. Both the principle of thematic variation employed in the Caniona 
and the quiet, dignified and solemn mood of the Allabreve are obviously 
inspired by the Roman composer. The first movement of the well-known 
Pastorale in F (P. 1/88, BWV 590) also belongs to the same category. 
This piece (probably unfinished, since it begins in F and ends in a), with 
its long pedal points, its gentle and lyric character, and the 12/8 Siciliano 
rhythm, reflects the spirit that can be found in countless Italian musical 
descriptions of the Nativity. 

In both clavier and organ compositions of this period Bach occasion- 
ally used Italian themes. A Fugue in c (P. IV/40, BWV 574) has the title 
'Thema Legrenzianum elaboratum . . . per J. S. Bach ' while his Fugue in 
b {P. IV/50, BWV 579) makes use of a theme by Corelli. 1 Bach's com- 

1 The source of the theme by Legrenzi (1626- 1690) has not yet been found; the 
Corelli arrangement is based on the second movement of the composer's op. III/4. 


position is almost three times as long as Corelli's and employs four parts 
instead of the three in his model. Nevertheless it is easily understandable 
that the simple and plastic theme of the Roman master {Ex. 47) fascinated 

the young composer. Preoccupation with such music helped Bach to 
develop the expressive architecture of his later fugue themes. 

As to works which are neither transcriptions nor based on a specific 
model, the first results of Bach's study of Italian music may be detected in 
a number of compositions which contain Southern and Northern elements 
in rather primitive juxtaposition. The Toccata and Fugue in C (P. III/72, 
BWV 564) belongs to this group as it combines the style of the German 
toccata with that of the Italian concerto. The middle movement, which 
follows the bravura passages of the toccata, contains one of the sweetest 
and most poignant cantilenas Bach ever wrote. In this piece the master 
obviously had in mind a long-drawn-out violin solo of the kind to be 
found as second movement in a concerto. 

A number of preludes and toccatas written during the later part of the 
Weimar period reveal the process of simplification resulting from Bach's 
study of Italian models. The Dorian Toccata)- (P. III/30, BWV 538), for 
instance, no longer shows the abundant contrasts of the North German 
type. The whole powerful piece grows out of a simple motive which is 
stated in the first half-measure, and elements of which may be found in 
almost every one of its measures. The well-planned modulations and Bach's 
art of melodic evolution protect the work from any danger of monotony. 
Like the preludes, the fugues of this phase are less brilliant but more 
solidly built, discarding more and more the running motion of the North 
German toccata fugue. Bach likes to augment the variety in these fugues 
by introducing into the middle sections new ideas to which he attaches 
varying degrees of importance. The energetic Fugue in c (P. Ill/ 5 5, BWV 
537), for instance, brings into its development section a chromatically 
ascending counter-melody which for a time even displaces the main sub- 
ject, and only in the final climax does it give way to the original theme. 
Similar ternary constructions were used by the mature Bach in the re- 
modelling of many of the Weimar works. 2 

1 The designation is due to the fact that this composition in d has, according to the 
Dorian church mode, no flat in its signature. 

2 Owing to Bach's tendency to rearrange his Weimar works, the autographs, generally 
supposed to reflect a composer's intentions in their purest form, have at times to be 

j. Sebastian's organ works (1708-1717) 249 

Probably the best known of the organ works of the second period is 
the Passacaglia in c (P. I/76, BWV 582). 1 Bach found the first half of 
the theme for this work in the Trio en Passacaille by the French organ 
master, Andre Raison (1650-1720), and the formal model in similar works 
by Buxtehude. The idea of using mathematical patterns as a basis for 
musical construction was also familiar to the Baroque period. In spite of 
such easily traceable relationships, Bach's work is unique. Its theme, com- 
prising eight measures instead of the traditional four, shows a dignity, 
strength, and intensity which make it well suited for further treatment. 
The twenty variations of the set are divided into two groups of ten. Each 
of these shows in its turn a clear separation into subgroups of five. Even 
within those subgroups a further organization may be observed. As a rule 
the first two of the five variations are rhythmically connected, forming a 
pair, and the same is true of the last two, while the third variation stands 
alone. Only the fourth subgroup (var. 16-20) presents a slightly different 
aspect. It appears like a condensed recapitulation of the first ten varia- 
tions, 2 with the result that the passacaglia as a whole displays the same 
tripartite construction that can be found within each subgroup. With the 
majestic ending of No. 20, Bach exhausted all possibilities of the variation 
form, but instead of concluding, he decided to carry on in a different 
manner. In the fugue following the passacaglia he employed only the first 
four measures of the theme, but he adorned Raison's melody with a 
counterpoint that remains all through the fugue as the subject's faithful 
companion. As always, Bach drew the strongest possible inspiration from 
the apparently barren soil of self-imposed restrictions and limitations. 
What in the hands of a smaller mind might have developed into a sterile 
mathematical tour de force, was transformed by him into an immortal 
creation; the technical mastery is as nothing compared to the power and 
magnificence of Bach's inspiration. 

In the field of the organ chorale, Bach's main work of the second 
period was the so-called Orgelbiichlein (Little organ book; P. V, BWV 
599-644). It seems that he was engaged on this extensive composition 

subordinated to a source of less importance, such as a copy made by someone else. In the 
case of Bach the version that counts most is the one which, according to our knowledge of 
the master's style, represents the composer's intentions in their most mature form. 

1 The common conception that this work was originally written for a clavier 
equipped with pedal can no longer be upheld. Cf. Kinsky, 'Pedalklavier oder Orgel bei 
Bach,' Acta Musicologica, 1936. 

2 No. 16, in its partly harmonic character, is reminiscent of No. 1, while 18 is 
rhythmically related to 4; the contrasting No. 17 helps to reproduce the three-sectional 
organization of the first subgroup. Nos. 19, 20 are rhythmically related to the variations 
of the second subgroup. 


during the last years he spent in Weimar, penning it in two versions that 
differ in parts; but he did not complete it after he had moved to Cothen. 1 
Bach had originally planned this work on a very large scale. It was to 
comprise 164 chorales, the names of which the composer wrote at the 
top of the empty pages, arranging them in the order in which they were 
to be employed during the liturgical year. However, more than two 
thirds of the sheets remained unused, since Bach discontinued his work 
after completing 46 arrangements (4 for Advent, 13 for Christmas and 
New Year, 13 for Holy Week and Easter, and 16 for other events of the 
church year). 

According to the autograph title-page the Orgelbiichlein was designed 
for the 'incipient organist,' who should learn how 'to develop a chorale 
in sundry ways and at the same time perfect himself in the use of the 
pedal which is treated here as an obbligato. To the glory of God in the 
heights, to the instruction of the fellow-man.' At about that time Bach 
had several gifted pupils, and he was becoming more and more interested 
in the problem of how to pass on his craft to others. The Orgelbiichlein is 
the earliest in a long row of important educational compositions. 

This work is typical of Bach's period of transition. The chorales are 
presented in a simple and concise way; introductions or interludes are 
dispensed with; and, as a rule, the soprano offers an unadorned version 
of the chorale melody, which is supported by the three lower voices with 
consummate contrapuntal mastery. The same rhythmical pattern is main- 
tained throughout each arrangement; thus Bach obtains a form resembling 
an individual variation in a chorale partita. This leaning towards the 
chorale variation is, as we saw, a feature of Bach's early organ works. 
Another youthful characteristic is the subjectivism in the interpretation 
of the chorale melodies. Bach often expresses in the three lower parts a 
fervour and intensity of feeling, of which only the young are capable. On 
the other hand, the extreme economy of the musical language, so widely 
different from the inexperienced organist's volubility that perplexed his 
Arnstadt congregation, and the superb craftsmanship displayed in the 
strictly polyphonic treatment of the lower voices, show the composer to 
be close to his period of maturity. With supreme craftsmanship he succeeds 
within the extremely limited space available, both in presenting the chorale 
melody and in interpreting the emotional content inherent in the text. 

Johann Gotthelf Ziegler, who studied with Bach in Weimar, has re- 

1 Rust's theory (BG, XXV/2), recently upheld by Gurlitt and Bukofzer, that the 
Orgelbiichlein was mainly a product of the Cothen period, does not seem convincing to the 
present writer. 

j. Sebastian's organ works (1708-1717) 251 

corded a very significant piece of advice given by his master on the per- 
formance of chorales: the pupil should not merely concentrate on the 
melody, but should also express the 'affections' (the emotional content) 
of the text. The Orgelbiichlein clearly illustrates what Bach had in mind. 
In Lamm Gottes ('0 Lamb of God') the succession of 'sighs' (descend- 
ing appoggiaturas) in the accompanying parts, and the wailing chromatic 
progressions in Das alte Jahr vergangen ist ('The old year is past') both 
create an atmosphere of poignant sadness, while the running triplets in 
In dulci jubilo and the skipping rhythm in Mit Fried' una 1 Freud? ichfahr' 
dahin ('In peace and joy I go my way') express happy confidence. Perhaps 
the most deeply stirring of these chorales is Mensch, bewein dein 
Siinde gross ('0 man, thy grievous sin bemoan') in which Bach, near the 
end, inspired by the final words of the text 'In sacrifice miraculous He 
shed His precious blood for us, upon the cross suspended,' unfolds both 
the drama of Golgotha and its message of redemption. Particularly 
striking is a chorale in which at first sight Bach seems to have misinter- 
preted the text. In Alle Menschen milssen sterben ('Every mortal must 
perish') the dance-like rhythm of the bass produces a serene atmosphere 
only to be explained by the vision of eternal life evoked near the end of 
the text: 'There the faithful souls will see God's transcendent majesty.' 
Following a general trend of his time, Bach sometimes evolves motives 
out of pictorial references in the text. In Durch Adam's Fall ('Old Adam's 
fall'), the interval of a descending diminished seventh in the bass describes 
the sinful fall, while an undulating alto voice symbolizes the snake in 
paradise (Ex. 48). Nine of the finest arrangements are treated canonically, 

( JTenorvoice omiHed ) 

among them five at the interval of an octave and four at that of a fifth. 
There is a certain symbolism in this technique, most clearly apparent in 
In dulci jubilo, where the canon is inspired by the words 'Trahe me post te' 
('Draw me after Thee') in the second verse. Similarly in the chorale Hilf, 
Gott, dass mir's geling' ('Lord, help me to succeed') the imitation of Christ 
is symbolized through a canon of the fifth. Dies sinddie heil'gen ^ehn Gebot' 
('These are the holy ten Commandments') belongs to the few chorales in 
the Orgelbiichlein in which the counterpoint to the hymn tune is not freely 


invented, but, following the earlier organ chorale tradition, is derived 
from the melody of the cantus firmus. It is characteristic of the pleasure 
Bach takes in numerical symbolization that the motive of the counter- 
point appears exactly ten times in its original version. 1 

In his subsequent chorale arrangements Bach no longer used the 
method employed in the Orgelbiichlein. The subjective song-like treat- 
ment of the sacred tune, which is presented in unaugmented notes in the 
soprano, may later have seemed too intimate to him. Possibly this was 
one of the reasons why he left the work unfinished. His way of giving a 
uniform accompaniment to the simple melodies was to be taken up, how- 
ever, in the romantic Lied of the following century. 

Of the organ works of Bach's Third Creative Period only very few 
were written in Cothen (1717-23). Possibly the best known product of 
these years is the Fantasy and Fugue in g (P. 11/ 26, BWV 542) written 
for the visit to Hamburg in 1720. In its whole conception the piece was 
well suited to impress old Reinken, one of the chief adjudicators for the 
position in which Bach was interested. The Fantasy is a chromatic toccata 
somewhat reminiscent of the rhapsodic North German style. The fugue 
has a long-drawn-out and gay theme closely related to an old Dutch folk- 
song and at the same time to a piece by Reinken himself (Hortus Musicus, 
Sonata V). In spite of its great dimensions the work is well organized and 
clearly proportioned. In its happy and powerful character it voices the 
feelings of the genius in his early manhood. Old Reinken may have 
blinked when confronted with the cascades of pedal passages, or the 
sequence of more than 30 chords in inversion, presented in a tornado of 
sixteenth notes. Another composition which Bach may have written or 
revised for his Hamburg visit is his five-part arrangement with double 
pedal of An Wasserfliissen Babylons ('By the waters of Babylon'; P. VI/ 
1 2cz, BWV 65 3$). Its rich colouristic treatment and the brilliant double- 
pedal technique show Bach as a follower of North German masters, 
particularly Buxtehude. The same hymn tune was used by Bach for his 
famous improvisation which impressed Reinken so deeply. 

1 Schweitzer is mistaken when he points out (I.e., 453) that the first section of the 
melody occurs 10 times in the pedal. Actually it appears there only 3 times. However, 
this melody-fragment is used 10 times (on tonic, subdominant, and dominant) in the 3 
lower voices accompanying the chorale melody. In each repetition the intervals of the 
first statement are carefully preserved. Only the very last statement in the pedal bass is 
slighdy changed so as to produce the final cadence. 

j. Sebastian's organ works (1717-1723) 253 

A third product of this period is the Fugue in d (P. III/42, BWV ^(f) 
based on the master's own fugue in g for solo violin. 1 Although the style 
of the model is completely idiomatic and displays the deepest insight into 
the possibilities of the violin, Bach preserved the bulk of the original com- 
position, making only such additions as were necessary to transform the 
work into an organ fugue. To this end, the harmonic and polyphonic 
texture is intensified {Ex. 49), there are new entrances of the theme, a bass 

JTx. 1*9 


Tht 7±rgc notes in the upper line art Also to ot found iniht violinveraion (thtrt iJigyorc <% four ihhi for, 
The. smtfl neUa in the 7ovtr line are Additions of the organ-arrangement. 

part is supplemented, and mock imitations of the original are replaced by 
real imitations. The result is a piece written almost as well for the organ 
as the model was for the violin. 

These few works conceived in Cothen already give a good idea of 
the artistic goal that Bach was to pursue in the great organ works written 
(or finished) in Leipzig. He aimed at cohesion and unification within each 
work, even though its dimensions were increased; he strove for greater 
technical proficiency, particularly in the use of polyphonic devices; and 
he tried to enrich the organ's idiom by the introduction of elements from 
other fields of music. Each of these features can occasionally be found in 
Bach's earlier works. What is new, however, is the intensity and the pro- 
digious success with which the composer applied them in his Leipzig years. 

Such tendencies are clearly revealed in the Toccata in F (P. Ill/ 16, 
BWV 540) which precedes an earlier fugue in the same key. In this com- 
position the fantastic and improvisatory character of former toccatas is 
completely discarded. There is an introductory section over an organ 
point followed by a long-drawn-out pedal solo; the whole section is then 
restated, and transposed to the dominant, thus bringing the exposition 
to an end. The following section, a sort of development, clearly consists 
of four corresponding subdivisions. A third part, resembling a restate- 
ment of the first section, leads to another pedal point supporting a figura- 
tion in which the ascending motive of the beginning is inverted. In spite 
of its gigantic dimensions — the piece has more than 400 measures — the dis- 
position of the material is unusually lucid. The work is a miracle of logical 
and well-balanced construction. 

1 The fugue also exists in a version for lute (BJVV iooo). 


How important it was at that time for Bach to round off his musical 
forms can be shown by the Prelude in C (P. 11/ 2, BWV 545) which also 
exists in an earlier version. In the final arrangement Bach added a little 
introduction of 3 measures which he repeated at the end of the work, 
thus producing a ternary form. 

Three-part construction is also to be found in the fugues of the 
Leipzig period, and this to an even greater extent by far than in the 
Weimar works. One of the best known compositions of the Thomas 
Cantor is the Fugue in e {P. 11/ 64, BWV 548), named in the English- 
speaking countries 'the wedge,' since its theme, containing one ascending 
and one descending line, gradually widens from the interval of a third to 
an octave. This composition, conceived on a very large scale, exhibits in 
the middle a free toccata section of more than 100 measures, after which 
the first part is restated without modification. 

The influence of other forms is often noticeable in the Leipzig organ 
works. In the stirring Prelude in b (P. II/78, BWV 544) the melodic lead 
is given to the upper part, while middle voices and bass all participate in 
the imitations. This prelude shows melodic features of an aria in which 
elements of the main tune are taken up in a fugue-like manner by the 
lower parts. The introduction of foreign elements into organ music is 
particularly obvious in the 6 Sonatas or Trios (P. I, BWV 525-30) which 
Bach wrote after 1727 (or possibly after 1723) mainly for the instruction 
of his son Friedemann. It is not quite certain whether he had the organ 
or a pedal clavier with 2 manuals primarily in mind for these compositions, 
since the title 'for two claviers and pedal' is ambiguous. These sonatas 
undoubtedly make excellent exercises for developing the complete in- 
dependence of the organist's hands and feet. At the same time the lack 
of a truly idiomatic organ style can hardly be overlooked. The thematic 
elaboration is that of the trio sonata for one or two solo instruments with 
basso continuo; the three parts of the trio sonata are never augmented or 
reduced, and the model of the concerto plays a large part in the formal 
construction. Bach himself used the adagio of the third sonata as a slow 
movement for his Concerto in a for flute, violin, and harpsichord, and the 
first movement of the fourth sonata can be found scored for oboe 
d'amore, viola da gamba, and continuo in his Cantata No. 76. In either 
case the composer employed two melody instruments and continuo for 
the interpretation of his ideas. More recently, the trios have been edited by 
R. Todt in a version for violin, viola, and clavier, 1 and it is debatable 

1 Naumann and David arranged them for violin and piano, thus imitating Bach's 
procedure in his trios for violin and clavier or viola da gamba and clavier. 

j. Sebastian's organ works (1723-1740) 255 

whether such arrangements are not better suited to revealing the intricate 
beauties of these superb works than Bach's own setting for the organ. 

Bach's earliest organ work to appear in print was published in 1739 
under the title 'Third part of the Clavier Ubung (keyboard exercise), 
consisting of sundry preludes on the catechism and other hymns for the 
organ written for the enjoyment of amateurs and in particular for the 
connoisseurs of such work.' The collection begins with a Prelude in E 
flat (P. Ill/ 2; BWV 552) which is obviously connected with the so- 
called St. Anne or Trinity Fugue printed in the same volume as its last 
number. Although twenty-one organ chorales separate the two move- 
ments, they are linked together by the symbolic emphasis on the number 
three, employed as a reference to the Holy Trinity. Both the prelude and 
the fugue require three flats, and each consists of three main sections and 
uses three themes. 1 In between the two powerful tuttis of the beginning 
and the end, the prelude introduces two different subjects which are 
presented alternately with the main idea. In the fugue, one of the most 
dazzling works of the kind Bach ever wrote, thematic variation plays a 
big role. Each of the three sections in this movement has a subject of its 
own, but the second and third sections employ in addition a rhythmic 
alteration of the first theme in contrapuntal combination with their own 
ideas. Perhaps the clearest expression of the symbolic meaning in the 
'Trinity fugue' can be found in the three versions of the same main theme 
used here. 

The collection of chorale preludes contained in the Clavier Ubung 
(P. Ill, V-VTI; BWV 669-89) supplements, in a way, the earlier one of 
the Orgelhilchlein. Whereas the Weimar preludes deal only with chorales 
for the different holy days of the church year, the Clavier Ubung contains 
arrangements of German hymns corresponding to sections of the Ordi- 
narium Missae. The hymns are presented in an order similar to that of the 
Lutheran catechism, and as Luther compiled two versions of the cate- 
chism for adults and children respectively, so Bach wrote every chorale 
in a more elaborate form for 'connoisseurs' and in a simplified version 
without pedal for 'amateurs.' There are preludes on the German Kyrie, 
Gloria, Credo, and Pater noster, followed by the hymns for Baptism, the 
Confession of Sins, and Communion. In most of the smaller and simpler 
arrangements without pedal, Bach's starting point is the traditional form 
of a fughetta, based on the beginning of the chorale melody in its original 

1 Although Forkel, Griepenkerl, Spitta and others sensed a relation between the two 
movements, the similarity in construction is often overlooked. Grace (/.c, p. 226) even 
flatly denies 'any alliance in spirit or form.' 


or in an ornamented form. Several organ preludes are also built on the 
complete hymn tune used as a cantus firmus and accompanied by counter- 
melodies. These long-established patterns are employed, however, in a 
manner clearly revealing Bach's full maturity. There is a significance in 
these preludes, a conception on a large scale, an art of welding the different 
sections into a homogeneous unity, and a supreme mastery of the contra- 
puntal style, that marks them as products of his third period. Again the 
composer is constantly attempting to incorporate seemingly unrelated 
stylistic elements into the body of his organ music, thus creating new 
artistic conceptions. The ornamentation of the tune in the fughetta Wir 
glauben alV ('We believe all'; P. VII/81, BWV 681), for instance, gives 
it the character of a French overture. The most significant among the 
cantus firmus arrangements for the manual only is Allein Gott in der Hon" 
('To God on high alone'; P. VI/10, BWV 675), in which a kind of two- 
part invention surrounds the chorale melody (Ex. 5o).Inthegreatarrange- 



J. JlJ^Jfl 





I ffffitr 



ment with pedal of Vater unser im Himmelreich ('Our Father in Heaven'; 
P. VII/52, BWV 682), the hymn tune is introduced as a canon between 
soprano and alto. A complete trio sonata, with its typical bass and imita- 
tions between the upper parts, is added to this strict form, thus producing 
a five-part composition. The work presents almost insurmountable diffi- 
culties to the organist who attempts to keep the two basic elements of the 
piece distinctly audible, since he has to play one part of the trio sonata as 
well as one part of the cantus firmus with each hand. At the same time it 
makes the widest possible use of all the colouristic resources of the instru- 
ment. In the version with pedal of Dies sinddie heiVgen iehn Gebot' ('These 
are the holy ten Commandments'; P. VI/50, BWV 678) Bach simplifies 
the technical problem by entrusting to the organist's right hand the upper 
parts of the trio sonata and to his left the strict canon of the cantus firmus 
voices. The symbolic exegesis in this prelude is not confined to the sub- 
division of the trio sonata into ten sections; the prelude has a definite 
two-part form by way of reference to the two tablets on which the 
commandments were inscribed. Moreover, the use of the canon form in 
this as well as in the preceding prelude may be intended to symbolize the 
observation of God's law. The highly intricate six-part arrangement of 

j. Sebastian's organ works (1740-1750) 257 

Aus defer Not ('In my despair'; P. VI/36, BJVV 6%6) is inspired by the 
models of Scheidt and of early North German composers. The style of 
the work is strictly polyphonic, introducing different types of diminution 
and strettos; at the same time the gradual increase in rhythmic motion 
gives the prelude a magnificently urgent character. The rigid contra- 
puntal laws supply, as they so often did, the best foundation for Bach to 
express intense emotion. 1 

The organ works of Bach's Last Period are particularly characteristic 
of the old master's state of mind. More and more his thoughts dwelt on 
bygone eras and on the future, while the links with his own time became 
loosened. The Eighteen Chorales of various types to be performed on an 
organ with two manuals and pedal were written down between 1747 and 
1750. The composer probably meant to publish them, but was prevented 
by death from doing so. The majority of these preludes are works of the 
Weimar period which Bach revised in Leipzig, and only a few were con- 
ceived during the last years of the composer's life. The 'Eighteen Chorales' 
are characterized by a predilection for melodic ornamentation and the 
absence of canonic forms. In contrast to the two earlier collections, no 
liturgical plan can be detected in the selection of the chorales. Bach's inten- 
tions seem to have been primarily of an educational and artistic character. 
Particularly striking is Jesus Christus unser Heiland ('Jesus Christ our 
Saviour'; P. VI/87, BWV 665), where the various counterpoints to the 
individual lines of the chorale are fused together by the employment of the 
same gently flowing Allemande rhythm. Schmiicke dich, o Hebe Seek 
('Deck thyself, bright soul'; P. VII/50, BWV 654) uses, as a companion 
to the cantus firmus, a poignant Sarabande melody developed from 
the first two lines of the hymn tune. The 'state of bliss' expressed in 
this chorale deeply moved such romantic artists as Mendelssohn and 

In all these arrangements, the use of dance and variation forms points 

1 Four duets {BWV 802-5) which appear near the end of the third part of the 
Clavier Ubung have greatly puzzled research students. Owing to their invention-like 
character and the absence of a pedal part, Spitta and Schweitzer considered them to be 
clavier music which had been inserted by mistake, and in 1952 Ralph Kirkpatrick recorded 
them as harpsichord pieces. It seems far more likely, however, that these are organ composi- 
tions too. Neither the style of the music nor the absence of pedal parts furnishes conclusive 
evidence that Bach erroneously included them into a collection of organ music. In support 
of this, Klaus Ehricht recently proved (BJ, 1949-50) that there is a thematic relation 
between the duets and some of the smaller chorale arrangements without pedal. 


to the artistic inspiration Bach received in his youth from the works of 
Buxtehude and Bohm. This is equally true of the 'Canonic Variations on 
the Christmas hymn Vom Himmelhoch da komm ich her (P. V/92, BWV 
769) which were written on the occasion of Bach's joining the Mizler 
Sozietat, and were printed around 1748. Here he once more adopts the 
partita form, this time to display his superb skill in the solution of contra- 
puntal problems. Throughout the work the polyphonic texture grows 
more and more intricate. Bach begins with a canon at the octave, followed 
by a canon at the fifth and the seventh. The fourth variation introduces a 
canon of the augmentation, the fifth, and last, canons of the inversion, 
successively at the intervals of the sixth, third, second and ninth. The 
final stretto actually presents all four lines of the melody simultaneously. 
In spite of this forbidding display of consummate learning, the canonic 
variations are basically a piece of lyric music impregnated with the spirit 
of Christmas. The same attitude can be found in Bach's very last com- 
position, the short organ chorale Vor deinen Thron tret' ich hiemit ('Before 
Thy throne I step, O Lord'; P. VII/74, BWV 668) to the tune Wenn wir 
in hochsten Noten seyn, printed, together with the Art of the Fugue, soon 
after the master's death. Here Bach uses a succession of expositions, in 
each case skilfully combining the melodies with their own inversions. He 
had also dealt with this same chorale in a richly ornamented arrangement 
in his Orgelbiichlein. Now, however, the artist, preparing himself to face 
his Maker, does away with all unnecessary melismata and presents the un- 
adorned melody, surrounded only by the products of his polyphonic 

It is remarkable that the ageing Bach showed following generations 
the way to write organ music on a purely homophonic basis too. Between 
1747 and 1750 he had a collection of 6 chorales published by his pupil, 
Georg Schiibler. The tendency of the mature composer to introduce 
stylistic elements from other fields of music reached its peak in this 
collection. With a single exception (the model of which may have been 
lost) all the organ chorales are literally transcribed from movements in 
Bach's cantatas. 1 Polyphonic treatment is almost completely abandoned 
here. The cantus firmus is escorted by broadly flowing melodies of a song- 
like character which have but a loose melodic connection with the chorale 
tune. In the famous Wachet auf, ruft wis die Stimme ('Wake ye maids, 
hark, strikes the hour'; P. VII/72, BWV 645), Bach writes a heartfelt, 
purely lyric and monodic tune (expressing the procession of the maidens 

1 The 6 Schiibler Chorales are printed as P. VII/72, 84, 76, 33; VI/4; VII/16 {BWV 
645-50). Their models are to be found in cantatas No. 140, ?, 93, 10, 6, 137. 

j. Sebastian's clavier works 259 

to meet the heavenly groom) that has little melodic relation to the tune 
of Nicolai's hymn with which it is interwoven. The 'Schiibler Chorales' 
were widely imitated by Bach's pupils and became models for organ 
chorale composition in the second half of the century. Thus the old 
composer not only brought the ancient craft of polyphony to a climax, 
but at the same time heralded future developments of his art. 


The term 'clavier' (from Latin clavis, a key) was used in Bach's time 
to indicate any instrument with a keyboard. The first, second, and fourth 
parts of Bach's Clavier Ubung (keyboard exercise) for instance, contain 
works for stringed keyboard instruments, while the third part is for organ. 
Similarly, works for the organ are often inscribed as compositions for 
'two claviers and a pedal.' 

However, the employment of the term in this wider sense was not 
very common. As a rule, 'clavier' denotes one of three main types of 
stringed keyboard instruments known to musicians in the Baroque 

(1) a harpsichord (Italian, cembalo; French, clavecin) furnished with 
one or two manuals, different register stops and several sets of strings, 
plucked by pieces of quill or leather; 

(2) a spinet or virginal, with a single manual, no register stops and 
one set of strings, plucked by pieces of quill or leather; 

(3) a clavichord, with a single manual, no register stops, and only one 
set of strings, struck by thin metal tangents. 

The pianoforte, although in existence before the middle of the century 
and known to Bach, was probably used only in his 'Musical Offering.' 

In a few isolated cases such as the 'Goldberg Variations' or the 
'Italian Concerto,' Bach expressed a wish that a harpsichord should be 
used. But as a rule he did not indicate any preference, and only from an 
analysis of each particular composition can it be conjectured whether the 
harpsichord, with its crisp tone and its capacity for undergoing sudden 
changes in colour and strength, the spinet, with its brilliant, yet unbending 
sound, or the clavichord, with its more flexible, though extremely soft 
tone, is best suited. Pieces without rests, for example, would not allow 
a harpsichord player to change his register stops, which in Bach's time 
were always operated by hand. On the other hand, the need for dynamic 


changes, particularly in compositions in concerto form, with its contrasts 
between solo and tutti, could be satisfied only on this instrument; while 
melodic lines of a singing character would be best interpreted on a clavi- 

In the second half of the 18th century the meaning of 'clavier' was 
gradually narrowed down to clavichord. This accounts for the faulty 
translation of Das wohltemperierte Clavier widely used in the English- 
speaking countries. The English title of 'Well-Tempered Clavichord' 
would imply that Bach had only a single instrument in mind for his work, 
whereas the composer did not in fact indicate any such preference. 1 

In the absence of more specific evidence it must be assumed that during 
Bach's lifetime the term 'clavier' could mean any stringed keyboard 
instrument, and it is in this general sense that the expression will be used 
in the present chapter. 

The majority of Bach's works for the clavier were products of his 
period of maturity. Bach himself must have thought highly of them, since 
among the few compositions he had printed, clavier works took up the 
greatest space. To the generations that followed him, he was primarily 
a master of clavier composition, while the great vocal works and the 
chamber and orchestral music were only rediscovered during the 19th 

The clavier works from Bach's First Period of Composition were pri- 
marily dependent on models provided by masters from Central and 
Southern Germany. North German influences, which were of such 
importance for Bach as an organ composer, are far less in evidence here. 
A Fugue in e {BWV 945), obviously one of the composer's earliest 
works, attempts to imitate Pachelbel. It is an awkward composition, 
completely lacking in modulations, and written against the clavier rather 
than for it. A Sonata in D {BWV 963) is still under the influence of the 
great Johann Kuhnau, who was the first to write sonatas in several move- 
ments for the clavier. The last movement has the heading Thema all' 
Imitatio Gallina Cucca. Translated from the faulty wording of the old 
manuscript 2 the title reads: 'Theme imitating hen and cuckoo,' and these 
two birds can in fact be heard merrily raising their voices all through the 
movement {Ex. 51). The Austrian Poglietti's Henner- und Hannergeschrey 

1 Forkel's statement that Bach liked best to play upon the clavichord need not be taken 
literally. Forkel received much information from Emanuel Bach, the foremost exponent 
of clavichord playing. It is not impossible that the Hamburg composer attributed to his 
father an attitude which was basically his own. Equally unconvincing is the attempt of 
Hans Brandts-Buys to prove that the Well-Tempered Clavier was written for the organ. 

2 The composer probably meant: Tema alVimita\ione della gallina e del cuculo. 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (before 1708) 261 

(cries of hens and roosters) and the notes of the cuckoo in works by the 
Bavarian Kerll may have acted as godfathers to this gay composition. 

Also pointing to South German sources is the name Capriccio which 
Bach gave to a kind of toccata-fugue in E (BWV y^) with the interesting 
inscription: In honorem Joh. Christoph Bachii, Ohrdruf. While the work 
dedicated to Sebastian's eldest brother and teacher is rather insignificant, 
inspiration flowed much more freely when the young composer wrote a 
clavier piece for another member of the family. It is the humorous 
Capriccio sopra la lontanan^a del suo fratello dilettissimo ('Capriccio on the 
departure of his most beloved brother'; BWVyyz) written in 1704, when 
Johann Jakob Bach decided to join the army of Charles XII, King of 
Sweden. This delightful work is a jocose interpretation of devices intro- 
duced four years before by Kuhnau in his 'Biblical Sonatas.' The technique 
which the earlier master had applied to the description of incidents from 
the Old Testament was employed by young Sebastian to depict some 
tender and amusing domestic scenes. Each of the six movements has a 
'programmatic' heading, partly in German, partly in Italian: '(1) Arioso. 
Adagio, represents the coaxing of the friends to prevent his journey. (2) 
[Andante], outlines various accidents that may happen to him in foreign 
lands. (3) Adagissimo, is a general lament of friends. (4) Here the friends, 
seeing that it cannot be otherwise, come to take leave. (5) Aria of the 
postilion. Adagio poco. (6) Fugue, imitating the sound of the posthorn.' 
The most variegated devices are used to convey the different emotions. 
The 'coaxing' of the friends is described with the help of a wide array of 
cajoling French ornaments. For the description of the dangers that might 
befall the traveller in foreign lands, modulations into distant keys are 
selected. The 'general lament' introduces the chromatically descending 
bass figure which for Baroque composers is the typical vehicle for the 
expression of supreme grief. (Purcell uses it in the death song of Dido, 
and Bach himself does likewise in the Crucifixus of the B minor Mass.) 
Here the composer temporarily relinquishes the clavier style proper; the 
'lament' appears like a solo for a melody instrument and figured bass, to 
which the performer has to add filling parts not contained in the manu- 



script. The 'Aria of the postilion' uses the gay octave jump which was 
produced by the tiny posthorns of the 18th century. This simple motive 
and a second more elaborate horn-call return in the double fugue of the 
finale with the beginning {Ex. 52). In its lively mood, its effortless flow 

&*V -'£ JJJJ| Ji4fl JJJJ | iii ^f 



of ideas and clever utilization of sound effects characteristic of the clavier, 
this is one of the most attractive compositions of the young Bach. The 
charming spirit of light merriment present in the whole 'Capriccio' was 
but rarely recaptured in Bach's later clavier works. 

In Bach's Second Period we notice a more systematic application to 
the solution of specific clavieristic problems. The arranging of violin 
concertos now became the focal point of his efforts both for the organ 
and the clavier. The acquaintance with such works, in particular those 
of young Vivaldi, proved an experience that was to shape decisively 
his whole creative output (cf. p. 246). 

The exact number of Bach's arrangements of Vivaldi's violin con- 
certos is not yet known. The 42nd volume of the Bach Gesellschaft, issued 
in 1894, contains '16 concertos after Vivaldi' {BWV 972-87). It has 
been proved, primarily by Arnold Schering, that of these works three 
(Nos. 11, 13, 1 and 16) were based on concertos by Duke Johann Ernst of 
Weimar, one (No. 14) on a violin concerto by Telemann, and one (No. 3) 
on the oboe concerto byMarcello. 2 Of the remainder, six (Nos. 1, 2,4, 5,7, 
9) have been ascertained to be works by Vivaldi. The sources for the other 
concertos have not yet been found, but it seems likely that there are some 
more compositions by Vivaldi, Marcello and Telemann among them. 3 

Bach did not mechanically transfer the string parts to the keyboard 
instrument. Wherever it seemed necessary, he gave greater flexibility to 
the bass line, filled the middle parts, enriched the polyphonic texture, and 

1 The first movement of the Concerto No. 13 was also arranged by Bach for the organ. 

2 This concerto, too, is occasionally attributed to Vivaldi. 

3 Cf. Szabolcsi Bence, 'Europai virradat,' Budapest, 1949. 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1708-1717) 263 

ornamented the melodic lines, in order to adapt the sustained tone of 
strings to the transient sound of the clavier (Ex. 53). These arrangements 

WoWncI j 

T?vaJ di } Concerto op-1, IE Largo c&niabilet 

I I I Idd 


3acft '« arrangement for clarier 

4>— TN^ 

were primarily made by Bach for his own artistic development. They 
satisfied his zest for experimenting, but they also served the purpose of 
supplying good clavier music for his own performances. 1 

Bach's own compositions reveal the strong interest which he took 
during his Weimar years in music of the Apennine peninsula. One result 
of his preoccupation with that country's string music is the Aria variata 
alia maniera italiana (BWV 989). It appears like a duet between violin 
and 'cello, and occasionally direct allusions to Bach's concerto arrange- 
ments can be noticed. The variation technique, too, is of the Italian type, 
ornamenting and transforming the melodic line of the tuneful air in a 
rather superficial manner, contrary to that of Bach's later variations which 
was much more intricate. 2 The magnificent Prelude and Fugue in a 
(BWV 894) are constructed like the first movement and finale of a con- 
certo. These two movements show such perfection that it becomes under- 
standable why Bach at a later date reversed his ordinary procedure and 

1 In addition, Bach made clavier adaptations of two sonatas and a fugue for two 
violins, viola da gamba and bass taken from Johann Adams Reinken's 'Hortus Musicus' 
(BWV 965-66), and of an organ fugue of the Freiberg organist J. C. Erselius (BWVy^). 
In these cases he gave more to his sources than he received, since he transformed and 
enriched the original compositions considerably. 

2 In the same category belongs the so-called Toccata in G (BWV 916) in the form 
of an Italian sinfonia. Its first movement sounds like one of Bach's clavier arrangements 
of a Vivaldi concerto. It consists mainly of a tutti which is repeated several times in 
various keys, with modulating solo episodes connecting the different entrances. The fugal 
finale which follows after a slow middle section also displays the bright and cheerful mood 
of a concerto. Four other Toccatas (BWV yiz-ij) are somewhat similar in character. 


orchestrated the clavier work, transforming it with consummate skill into 
a real concerto for flute, violin, clavier and strings (BWV 1044). At the 
same time the composer added a middle movement which he borrowed 
from the third of his organ sonatas. Two Fugues in A and b (BWV ^o- 
951) based on trio sonatas for two violins, 'cello and keyboard instrument 
by Tommaso Albinoni (1674- 174 5) would seem to belong to the master's 
arrangements. Actually Bach changed so much and preserved so little that 
it appears justifiable to consider them as independent works inspired by 
Italian models. Bach was particularly impressed by the plastic themes of 
the Italian composer, 1 but their elaboration could not satisfy him. As a 
matter of fact, the fugue in b exists in two versions: one fairly close to the 
Italian work, and another from a later period which is almost three times 
as long; it exhausts the contrapuntal possibilities of the theme to an extent 
of which its original composer had never been aware, and it imbues the 
fugue with an intensity of feeling quite different from the calm serenity of 
Albinoni's music. 

In certain clavier compositions written during the last Weimar years 
(or possibly at Cothen) a complete sublimation of the Italian influence is 
in evidence. These superbly proportioned pieces, beautifully worked out 
in every detail, could not possibly have been written if Sebastian had not 
gone through a period of the most intense study of Southern art; but there 
is no direct reference to Italian sources and it almost seems as if Bach were 
retracing his steps. In the Toccatas in f sharp and c (BWV 910-11) the 
different sections no longer show the separation into four movements of 
the Italian church sonata. They follow each other without interruption 
and, to make the connection even closer, in the Toccata in f sharp Bach 
evolves the subject of the end fugue out of the theme of the slow section 
(Ex. 54). The composer returns here to the traditional one-piece toccata 

Ex St- 


of Georg Muffat and the variation technique of Froberger, imbuing them 
with his own striving towards unity and cohesion of parts. — A work that 
in its rhapsodic spirit belongs to an earlier phase, although it probably 

1 Compare the use of themes by Legrenzi and Corelli in Bach's organ works of the 
period (p. 247). 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 265 

received its final form in Cothen, is the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue 
{BWV 903). In spite of its emotional intensity the Fantasy has a logical 
construction, being clearly divided into three sections. The fugue, with a 
theme based on chromatic progressions, is mainly responsible for the 
epithet given to the whole work. It starts in strict contrapuntal style but 
gradually loosens up as the composition progresses. The majestic ending, 
with its organ-point and the powerful harmonization of the theme, con- 
firms the character of grandeur which prevails in this dramatic com- 
position. One would like to think that it was with a work of this type 
that Bach won his laurels when he regaled the spellbound Dresden 
audience after Marchand had evaded the contest with his German rival. 1 

The mature Bach was by inclination and vocation a teacher. Unlike 
the majority of great composers, he considered instructing others not a 
tedious chore but a stimulating experience. Keyboard instruments were 
particularly well suited for teaching purposes, and Bach wrote a great 
number of works that are primarily intended as technical studies, but 
which developed under the hands of the master into creations of supreme 
beauty as well as craftsmanship. They are by no means etudes written for 
his personal pupils only, but collections devised on the largest possible 
scale and intended for all students and music-lovers alike. 

The title-page of the Orgelbilchlein (cf. p. 250) by its reference to the 
'beginning organist' and the 'instruction of the fellow musician' clearly 
reveals its pedagogical purpose. This purpose is just as obvious in a 
document of a different nature started in 1720 for Sebastian's eldest son, 
Friedemann, then 9^ years old. This Clavierbiichlein 2 ('Little clavier 
book'), partly written by Bach and partly under his supervision, contains 
a progressive manual, starting with an explanation of clefs and ornaments, 
and leading the pupil from the simplest to the more advanced pieces. In an 
Applicatio {BWV 994) at the beginning of the Clavierhuchlein^ a short 
composition is completely fingered by the composer himself, showing 
Sebastian's bold innovation in the use of the thumb (which had hitherto 
hardly been employed on the clavier), but also his liking for the old- 

1 The first notes of the fugue theme are, according to the German designation, 
A-B-H-C. These letters make up the name of the composer, although in a different order. 
It is well known that Bach intended to use the letters of his name in the unfinished fugue 
of his Art of the Fugue. 

2 The original manuscript is the property of Yale University, New Haven, Conn. 



fashioned method of passing the third over the fourth finger {Ex. 55). 
Other compositions likewise fingered by the master {BG, 36/126 and 224, 


rfr f r J , 


« s * s 5 

1 j .J.J a 3 * » i 

1 * 


— * r r FT 

"j, p« ' 

I4 r 

1 Is 

Vt-H lr ^ a 

L - !-' f ' 

225) reveal a similar attitude. Bach systematically combined traditional 
and new devices, relinquishing little that came to him from the past, but 
lifting it nearer to perfection. 

The Clavierbiichlein contains nine easy preludes {BWV 924-32), 
which were not meant as introductions to fugues but as independent 
musical vignettes, valuable both as preparatory studies and for the enjoy- 
ment they provided for the young pupil. 1 Of greater importance are the 
fifteen Praeambula and fourteen Fantasias in the manual, which we now 
know as the 'Two-part Inventions' and the 'Sinfonie' (Three-part inven- 
tions; BWV 772-801). Bach must have used these compositions a great 
deal, since they also exist in two other autographs, the later of which 
bears the following interesting inscription: 

Honest guide, by which lovers of the clavier, and particularly those desirous of learning, 
are shown a plain way not only to play neatly in two parts, but also, as they progress, to 
treat three obbligato parts correctly and well, and at the same time to acquire good ideas 
and properly to elaborate them, and most of all to learn a singing style of playing, and 
simultaneously to obtain a strong foretaste of composition. Executed by Joh. Seb. Bach, 
capellmeister of the Prince of Anhalt-Cothen, Anno Christi, 1723. 

The title once more announces the educational purpose. These works 
are meant as studies for the performer and for the budding composer as 
well. The reference to the singing style of playing seems to indicate that 
for the execution of these studies Bach intended the clavichord to be 
used, on which modulations of the tone-quality are possible. The manu- 
script begins with a revised version of the Praeambula (now called inven- 
tions) and presents them in order of ascending keys — C, c, D, d, E flat, E, e, 
F, f, G, g, A, a, B flat, b — omitting only the less common ones. Next follow 
the Fantasias in their definite form. There are now fifteen of them in the 
same keys and presented in the same order as the inventions. Their new 
name is Sinfonie. It is easy to trace the models which Bach followed in 

1 A collection of Bach's 6 preludes of a similar nature is inscribed in an old manu- 
script A I'usage des commenpants. 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 267 

writing these compositions. The two-part inventions are fashioned after 
preludes by Johann Kuhnau and J. Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer. Bach 
found the unusual name in Bonporti's Inven^ioni for violin and bass, 
compositions which interested him so much that he copied four of them 
(BWV^ Anh. 173-76). The Sinfonie (now usually referred to as three- 
part inventions) are based on Kuhnau' s attempt to transplant the Italian 
trio sonata to the clavier, but what Bach creates out of these elements is 
nevertheless entirely new. No other composer had ever considered im- 
buing clavier compositions of such small dimensions with a content of 
similar significance. There are studies in independent part writing using 
all the devices of fugue and canon, double and triple counterpoint, but 
without strict adherence to any of them. Bach offers fantasias in the realm 
of polyphony, freely blending all known techniques, and creating forms 
which are held together by the logic, and the iron consistency, of his 
musical thought. An analysis of the very first of the two-part inventions 
for instance shows that the simple initial idea {Ex. 56a) together with its 
inversion {Ex. 56^) dominate the whole composition. Apart from the 


cadences, there is not one measure that does not contain either or both of 
them. The invention is divided into five sections (b. 1-6, 7-10, 11-14, 15- 
18, 19-22) which are of approximately the same length, and there is a 
marked relationship between the first and last section, as well as between 
the second and fourth. 

Similar instances of perfect musical architecture may be found in 
many of these 30 microcosms. As always in Bach's work, technical perfec- 
tion is combined with the strongest emotional intensity. In the three-part 
invention in f, for instance, the intricate polyphonic interpretation of the 
three subjects and the magnificent formal construction are employed in an 
atmosphere of sinister pathos, the dramatic power of which Bach himself 
has hardly ever surpassed. Like some of the short clavier compositions of 
the Romantic period, the two- and three-part inventions could be 
presented in groups. The second autograph of the work shows each two- 
part invention followed by a three-part invention in the same key. There 
is a definite inner relation between the members of the resulting pairs 
(particularly obvious in the two- and three-part inventions in C, E, and A 
respectively); yet the performance of the work in the order of the last 
autograph is equally successful. 


Eleven preludes from the Clavierbiichlein written for Friedemann Bach 
were used in revised and enlarged form for a third and particularly signi- 
ficant composition. This work, finished in 1722, has the title: 

The Well-Tempered Clavier, or preludes and fugues in all the tones and semitones, 
both with the major third or 'Ut, Re, Mi' and with the minor third or 'Re, Mi, Fa.' For 
the use and profit of young musicians who are anxious to learn, as well as for the amuse- 
ment of those who are already expert in the art. 

The 24 preludes and fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier {BWV 846- 
869), one for each major and minor key, were so successful that in Leipzig 
Bach compiled a second collection of 'Twenty-four New Preludes and 
Fugues' 1 {BWV 870-93) which was completed between 1740 and 1744. 
These forty-eight pairs have since become the basic material of the litera- 
ture for keyboard instruments, and it is on them that Bach's fame as the 
greatest master of fugue composition largely rests. 

The unusual name that he chose for the first collection was inspired by 
a most important innovation made at the end of the 17th century. Andreas 
Werckmeister, a German organist, published in 1691 a treatise entitled 
'Musical Temperament or . . . mathematical instruction how to produce 
... a well-tempered intonation on the clavier.' In this work the author 
demands the use of 'equal temperament' for all keyboard instruments. 
The 'pure' or mathematical intonation which was the basis of the older 
systems had the disadvantage that it contained half-tones of different sizes. 
The possibilities of modulation were therefore very limited, and keys 
with many sharps or flats could not be used. In Werckmeister's 'equal 
temperament,' on the other hand, the octave was artificially divided into 
twelve half-tones which were exactly alike. Each of them could therefore 
take the place of the tonic and there was no limitation to the use of modu- 
lations. German musicians were quick to explore the potentialities of the 
new system. J. P. Treiber published, in 1702 and 1704, two compositions 
which, according to his claim, employ 'all the keys and chords.' Of great 
importance for Bach's work was Fischer's Ariadne Musica . . . per XX 
Praeludia, totidem Fugas (1710?) in which the composer, with the aid of 
the 'Ariadne thread' of modulation, leads his hearers through the laby- 
rinth of the keys. In 1719 Mattheson presented in his Organistenprobe '24 
easy and as many somewhat more difficult examples in all the keys,' and 
in 1722, the year of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Friedrich Suppig, an 

1 This title is quoted by Marpurg. The autograph in the British Museum does not 
have a tide. Its designation as second part of the Well-Tempered Clavier apparendy 
originated after the composer's death. 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 269 

organist in Dresden, wrote Labyrinthus Musicus, a 'fantasy through all 
the keys, 12 major and 12 minor.' 1 

Sebastian's work in this field is not only greater than that of any of 
his predecessors, but it explores all the possibilities of the 'well-tempered' 
system with a thoroughness that none of the other composers had 
attempted. Bach realized that in 'equal temperament' lay the seeds of a 
revolution in the traditional clavier fugue. It was no longer necessary 
permanently to introduce new subjects or counter-subjects, or to employ 
variations of the fugal theme. These earlier features, which tended to give 
the fugue a certain patchwork character, could be dispensed with if modu- 
lation were systematically employed. Loosely built fugues with a certain 
amount of modulation had often been used in both chamber and orchestral 
music. In Bach's work they are transferred to the clavier, and take on the 
greater solidity of texture peculiar to keyboard music. Entries of the main 
theme solidly establish each key, while the connecting episodes provide 
the necessary modulations. Since the material of the episodes is derived 
from the main theme or the counterpoint which escorts it, the uniformity 
of the musical substance is complete within each fugue. As a rule full 
cadences or general rests are avoided; the different sections are carefully 
interlinked in order to increase the feeling of absolute oneness which the 
hearer receives from these works. 

The prevailing tendency towards unification by no means prevents 
the existence of tremendous differences between the individual composi- 
tions. No two preludes or fugues resemble each other in mood; each of 
them represents a particular frame of mind. There is a similar variety in 
the formal construction and the technical devices used in this work. We 
find fugues not only with three and four voices, but also with two and five. 
Next to fugues of the highest polyphonic intricacy, like No. 8, the Well- 
Tempered Clavier contains fugues as loosely constructed as No. 10, the 
two parts of which are carried on for several measures in simple parallel 
octaves. Old-fashioned fugues of Froberger's ricercar type (No. 4) alter- 
nate with highly progressive fugues introducing chromatic and modu- 
lating themes (Nos. 12 and 24). And, of course, all kinds of transitional 
forms can be detected between such extremes. Even greater contrasts can 
be found in the different types of preludes. There are preludes imitating 
lute improvisations (No. 1), those of the etude type (No. 5), some 
resembling two-part and three-part inventions (Nos. 11 and 19) and 

1 Bernhard Christian Weber's Well-Tempered Clavier with the forged date 1689 
was not a model for Bach's work, but merely a later imitation of it, probably written 
around 1750, 



preludes imitating the slow movement of a church sonata (Nos. 8 and 22). 
Bach's tendency to enrich his compositions through the transfer of forms 
originating in other types of music is particularly noticeable here. The 
relation between preludes and fugues also shows a great amount of variety. 
In general the first volume of the Well-Tempered Clavier displays a 
firm coherence between the two members of each group, and the preludes 
effectively prepare for the following more strictly polyphonic composi- 
tion. In rare cases there is even a real thematic bond, as the beginning of 
No. 1 can show, where the top notes of the arpeggios in the first 7 
measures anticipate the main notes of the fugal subject (Ex. 57). 

(\ "PreJud 

*s — 1 




O - 

f) Tugue : * * x y 1 x x 

The '24 New Preludes and Fugues,' usually referred to as the second 
part of the Well-Tempered Clavier, were written at a time when Bach's 
older sons were beginning to make their contribution to the development 
of musical forms. Accordingly the preludes are frequently in two-part 
dance form (Nos. 8 and 18), and even take on a sonata form with complete 
recapitulation, although still lacking any subsidiary theme (No. 5). In- 
stead of a coda, one prelude has a kind of fughetta (No. 3) and another 
resembles a three-part fugue (No. 22). In these two cases Bach para- 
doxically uses fugues as introductions to fugues. The progressive as well 
as the clearly unorthodox character of these preludes is also to be found 
in the fugues. The fantastic and unconventional beginning of No. 20 
could hardly have received its final shaping before 1740. While the fugues 
of the older volume display the highest degree of polyphonic virtuosity, 
the later set is more restrained in its parade of contrapuntal devices. There 
is notably a marked decrease in the number of strettos, and the second 
book contains no counterpart to the intricate chromatic fugues of the first 
collection, its whole character being more diatonic and even modal. In 
No. 9 for instance with its plainsong theme, something like a spirit of 

I X. SB 

austere early vocal polyphony manifests itself (Ex. 58). Thus the second 
book does not achieve Baroque monumentality to the same extent as the 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 271 

first. It is a loose collection of individual numbers, emphasizing a more 
homophonic style and displaying modernistic tendencies coupled with 
retrospective features. 

After the Clavierbikhlein for Friedemann, two other works of a similar 
nature were begun by Sebastian. The first, written in 1722 and probably 
meant as technical exercise and entertainment for members of his household, 
is predominantly in the hand of the master himself. It contains the first five 
French suites (BWV 812-16) as well as some fragments and insignificant 
little pieces. The binding of this Notenbiichlein deteriorated through the 
centuries and some sheets are missing altogether, yet it still gives a good 
idea of the kind of music Bach liked to have performed in his own home. 
In much better condition is the big Notenbiichlein for Anna Magdalena 
Bach, which her husband presented to her in 1725. He personally inserted 
Nos. Ill and VI of his Partitas {BWV 827 and 830), but the rest of the 
pages were given to his wife to do with as she pleased. The book contains 
a number of little dance pieces (minuets, polonaises, marches, a musette) 
which were not composed by Sebastian and may not even reflect the taste 
of Magdalena who entered them in the book. These agreeable and tech- 
nically very simple representatives of the style galant were probably meant 
for the little hands of Emanuel, aged 11, and for the younger children. 
They were also particularly well suited for use in the dancing lessons 
which, according to the custom of the time, every growing boy and girl 
had to take. Bach's authorship may also well be doubted in such anony- 
mous works as the philistine aria 'Elevating Thoughts of a Tobacco 
Smoker' {BWV 515) and the not very refined wedding poem. A little 
love song Willst du dein Her^ mir schenken by Giovannini, a Rondeau by 
Couperin, and a Minuet by Bohm also slipped into the collection. The 
composer Sebastian is not represented in this family music book as often 
as one would expect. Besides the 2 Partitas, it again contains 2 French 
Suites {BWV 812, 813: the second one incomplete), the first prelude 
from the Well-Tempered Clavier, and a handful of chorales and arias, 
among them the tender Bist du bei mir ('Are you with me'; BWV 508). 
Altogether the Notenbiichlein presents a rather amusing medley with 
entries not only by father and mother Bach, but occasionally also by 
their children, with Sebastian's attempts to correct mistakes and even to 
provide for his sons a systematic course in the realization of a figured bass. 
After the 15th rule, however the master gave up, with the excuse that 'the 
rest could be better explained orally.' 

The two Notenbiichlein introduce a new form of composition, hardly 
cultivated by Bach during his first period, but becoming of the utmost 


importance in his maturity: the suite of dances. The so-called 'French 
Suites' included in the two little note books are not however, the earliest 
works that Bach wrote in this field. They are preceded by another set, 
known to-day as English Suites. All attempts to find a valid reason for 
this name have so far proved unsuccessful. The designation, though not 
originating with Bach himself, was probably coined at an early date. On 
a copy of the set, in the handwriting of Sebastian's youngest son, Johann 
Christian, there is written: ''Fait pour les Anglois,' and Forkel states in his 
Bach biography that the work was composed for a distinguished English- 
man. Another and more probable theory is that the study of the suites by 
Dieupart, who lived in London as a teacher and composer, induced Bach 
to write this collection. Actually Sebastian made a copy of Dieupart's 
clavier suite in f and used this composer's gigue in A as a model for the 
prelude to his own English suite in the same key. 1 Apart from this, hardly 
any English features can be detected in the six suites of the set. Bach 
followed the tradition of the German suite which during the second half 
of the 17th century had imported from France the four dances, Allemande, 
Courante, Sarabande and Gigue, inserting some optional Galanterien 
(dances or dance-like movements different in character from the main 
numbers) between Sarabande and Gigue, and placing an introductory 
number at the head of each suite. 

The first number of the English Suites (BWV 806-11) always bears 
the same, rather nondescript title of Prelude. Actually, the first Prelude, 
which introduces near its beginning an arpeggio of specifically harpsi- 
chord character (Ex. 59), is a kind of fantasy based on the Gigue form. 

The remaining five introductions display interesting combinations of 
fugue, concerto, and da capo forms, resembling clavier reductions of 
movements in a concerto grosso. 2 In each suite Bach uses only a single 
pair of Galanterien, consisting of two dances of the same type, the first in 
the original key of the suite, the second like a trio in the parallel key. The 

1 Cf. E. Dannreuther, 'Musical Ornamentation' (1893-95), V x 3 8 - 

2 Following a suggestion by the author of this book, the introductions to the suites 
Nos. 3 and 4 were arranged by students of Boston University for three solo instruments 
(violin, oboe, and bassoon) accompanied by strings and harpsichord; these new versions 
were extremely effective. 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 273 

number of voices remains constant throughout each piece, and a definite 
dance character is in evidence. 

The exact year of composition of the English Suites is not known, 
but it seems probable that Bach was engaged in their composition for 
many years, starting at an early date and ultimately finishing the work in 
Cothen. The English Suites contain direct references to music by other 
composers of the kind to be found in Bach's first two creative periods. 
Apart from the aforementioned relation of the Prelude to No. 1 to the 
Gigue by Dieupart, there is a resemblance between the theme starting 
the Prelude to No. 2 and the fugue subject of Corelli's op. III/4; 1 while the 
Gigue of No. 6 seems to be fashioned after an organ composition by 
Buxtehude. 2 Moreover, in some of the turbulent Gigues of this set the 
spirit of Bach's earlier years is revived, and even an occasional youthful 
volubility is noticeable in the Allemandes. On the other hand, the didactic 
thoroughness with which the composer elaborates on the execution of the 
agrements in Suites 2 and 3, writing out every detail and taking no chance 
with the possible incompetence of his performers, reflects the pedagogue 
Bach of the Cothen period. The descending order of keys used for the 
English Suites appears like a counterpart to the procedure employed in 
the Inventions, while the Sarabande in No. 3, with its extensive modula- 
tions and the use of even an enharmonic change {Ex. 60), might have 


been written at the same time as the Well-Tempered Clavier. Altogether 
the English Suites show a rather confusing combination of earlier and 
later features which makes it seem possible that they were begun before, 
and concluded after, the French Suites. 

The six French Suites {BWV 812-17) are shorter, simpler, and 
easier to play than the 'English' set. They use the same four basic dances, 
as well as a number of Galanterien, but they have no introductory move- 
ments, and each suite begins with an Allemande. The French names of all 
the movements (while the Italian-type Preludes are no longer in evidence) 
may have been responsible for the designation of the whole set as French 

1 The same theme was also used by Bach as a basis for an organ fugue (cf. p. 247). 

2 Collected Organ Works, I/94. 


Suites. But the Italian influence has not really disappeared; it only shifts 
from the introduction to the main numbers. In four suites (Nos. 2, 4-6) the 
Courantes are not of the slow and deliberate French type, but show the 
vivacious character of the fast moving Italian Corrente in 3/4 time. Of 
still greater importance are the graceful and supple Italianized melodies 
which Bach uses here, cleverly combining the styles of the two nations. 
In spite of their apparent facility, these suites are more intricate and 
show greater variety than the earlier set. Bach now develops his themes, 
and the second parts of the dances often begin with the main subject trans- 
ferred to the bass, a technique he used again later in the Partitas. There 
are not only different types of Courantes but also several kinds of Gigues, 
varying in rhythm and character. Particularly interesting is the Gigue in 
No. 1, a stately composition, resembling the introduction of a French 
overture, and quite unlike the usual gay and carefree finale of the suite. 
Similar diversities may be noticed in the Galanterien. The first suite intro- 
duces a pair of dances of the same type, the second two different dances, 
the third one pair and one separate dance, the fourth and fifth three 
different dances, and the sixth four different ones. Moreover the mood of 
the set is by no means uniform. The first three suites are more serious, 
while the second half of the work displays a serene and even joyful 
character. These are the most compact, the most unified, and in a way 
the most perfect suites Bach has written. With the following series the 
disintegration of the suite form sets in. 

Bach's third collection of suites (BWV 825-30) was published (and 
possibly also engraved) by the composer himself. Sebastian was 41 when 
the first suite appeared in 1726, and each subsequent year saw the publica- 
tion of a fresh suite until in 173 1 the whole set of 6 was available and 
designated as his op. I. He called this collection Clavier Ulung (keyboard 
exercise) and each individual suite Partita. Both these titles had been 
employed by Kuhnau, and in using them Bach once more professed him- 
self an admirer and follower of his great predecessor at St. Thomas'. In 
the traditional sequence of the four main dances interspersed with 
optional movements and preceded by an introduction Bach reverts to the 
form of the English Suites. On the other hand, there is no lack of pro- 
gressive features pointing towards the gradual absorption of the Suite into 
the 18th-century Sonata. The customary order of the movements is not 
uniformly maintained. In Nos. 4 and 6 there are Galanterien not only 
between Sarabande and Gigue, but also between Courante and Sarabande. 
Besides, the main dances do not always preserve their typical character. 
The quietly flowing Allemande of the earlier sets is superseded in No. 6 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 275 

by a dramatic composition with dotted rhythms. In addition to the 
French Courante (Nos. 2 and 4) the Italian Corrente type (Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6) 
is also used, while the Sarabandes in Nos. 3, 5 and 6 have discarded their 
original stately character. Under the influence of Italian music the Gigue 
in No. 1 is transformed into a completely homophonic virtuoso piece 
making continuous use of Scarlatti's favourite device — crossing the 
hands. 1 The composer fully realized that his dances did not always con- 
form to the customary pattern, and he accordingly stressed in his headings 
that he had observed the traditional tempo only (cf. Tempo di Gavotta in 
No. 6, Tempo di Minuet to in No. 5). To make his progressive intentions 
perfectly clear, Bach occasionally avoids both the traditional names and 
types of dances altogether. The Burlesca in No. 3 might be considered as 
a kind of minuet, while the Scherbo in the same suite somewhat resembles 
a Gavotte. In No. 2 the Gigue is replaced by a Capriccio which only in its 
general construction approaches the character of the original movement. 
In this set Bach increasingly employs simple phrases and periods of 4, 8, 
12 and 16 measures. The forms used in the dances are as unorthodox as 
those employed in the second part of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The 
Sarabande in No. 4, for instance, contains important elements of a con- 
densed sonata form: exposition with initial and concluding subject, 
richly modulating development and complete recapitulation. Although 
each section is on the smallest possible scale and the themes are not yet 
clearly separated from each other, the germs of future forms are clearly 
noticeable. The introductory numbers to each Partita reveal the tremen- 
dous versatility of the master. The Fantasia heading No. 3 is a kind of 
two-part invention, the Praeludium in No. 1 a three-part invention. No. 6 
is introduced by a Toccata with a fugue in the middle, while the Prae- 
amhulum 2 in No. 5 is a toccata with features of the concerto. No. 4 is 
preceded by a French Ouverture and No. 2 by a Sinfonia. In the latter the 
fusion of styles, so characteristic of the mature Bach, is in full evidence. 
While the Andante of the middle section and the fast finale conform to the 
usual idea of an Italian Sinfonia, the Grave of the first section belongs to a 

1 How strongly a younger generation felt the progressive character of this music 
is shown by the fact that the aria Je t" implore in Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride is to some 
extent fashioned after this movement. 

2 In the Partitas Bach uses not only French headings for his dances and introductory 
movements but also Italian and even Latin names. It is regrettable that several later editions 
corrected the master by changing every title into French. Even the BG and, following it, 
the BWV suppressed the distinction between Courante and Corrente which the composer 
himself made, and in Nos. i, 3, 5, 6 changed the Italian form of the original tide into the 
conventional French form. 


French overture. Out of the conventional forms of the two nations Bach 
created a new type which is entirely his own. 

The single Partita (or Ouverture as it is called after its introductory 
movement) in b {BWV 831) which Bach included in the second part of 
the Clavier Ubung, published in 1735, is similar in character to the earlier 
set, but the dissolution of the suite has (partly under the influence of the 
orchestra suite) progressed even further. There is no Allemande in this 
Partita, and Galanterien are inserted both before and after the Sarabande, 
and even after the Gigue. The last movement of the suite is a delightful 
Echo meant to display the dynamic contrasts available on a harpsichord 
with two manuals. Since the suite was expressly designed for this instru- 
ment, it may be assumed that the first 6 Partitas were also intended 
primarily as harpsichord music. 

The Partita is preceded in the original edition by a Concerto in the 
Italian taste (Italian Concerto'; BWV '97 -i), a work in which Bach reverts 
to his Weimar arrangements of violin concertos. Unlike the preludes to 
some of the English Suites, which are based on the idea of adapting a 
concerto grosso with several solo instruments to the keyboard, this 'Con- 
certo' represents the clavier arrangement of an orchestral work with a 
single soloist, the exact model of which exists in the composer's imagina- 
tion only. Vivaldi's concerto form is clearly recognizable in the brilliant 
first movement, 1 in which a massive tutti section in the tonic serves both 
as introduction and conclusion. Fragments of this basic idea appear at 
regular intervals but transposed to related keys and they are connected 
by thematically contrasting and modulating solo passages. The lofty 
middle movement sounds like a broadly extended violin solo accompanied 
by strings. Particularly clever is Bach's method of suggesting in the 
accompaniment a pedal point of the string basses {Ex. 61). In the dashing 


last movement, which has a form similar to that of the initial movement, 
some of the phrases in the main tutti seem to result from the adaptation 
of one-part string passages. 

In spite of this mock realism which keeps up the pretence that the 
composition is an arrangement, the work is extremely well suited to the 

1 The beginning displays a striking resemblance to the theme of a Sinfonia in Georg 
Muffat's 'Flonlegium Primum' (1695). 

j. Sebastian's clavier works (1717-1750) 277 

clavier. Indeed, not only from a musical but even^from a technical point 
of view it rates among Bach's finest keyboard compositions. The Italian 
Concerto displays the accomplished master's serenity and joy in supreme 
craftsmanship; with its perfect equilibrium between emotional content and 
musical format seems ideally suited to introduce the non-expert into the 
art of the Thomas Cantor. 

In this volume of the Clavier Ubung Bach gives directions for the use 
of the register stops of the harpsichord with two manuals. He prescribes 
frequent changes between forte and piano and even likes to indicate forte 
in one hand and piano in the other simultaneously. He apparently wanted 
a different volume of tone on each manual; probably two strings in unison 
or octaves on the forte manual, and single strings on the piano clavier. As 
a rule the tutti sections are to be played by both hands in forte, while in the 
solos the melody is forte and the accompaniment piano. But there are very 
attractive deviations from this rule showing that Bach was, on occasion, 
not averse to a dynamically diversified style. 

The third part of the Clavier Ubung consists of organ works only. The 
fourth part, published in 1742, is again written for a harpsichord with two 
manuals, according to the indication on the title. It contains a single work, 
an 'Aria with 30 Variations' in G {BWV 988). This composition was 
written for Bach's pupil, Goldberg, and is usually referred to as the 
Goldberg Variations. Bach wrote no other clavier composition of similar 
length and compactness. It demonstrates the consummate technical skill 
of the mature master combined with a soaring fantasy, pointing, parti- 
cularly in the treatment of the instrument, far beyond Bach's own 
time. 1 

The Sarabande in the French style, which forms the theme, is prob- 
ably not by the master himself. It dates from a somewhat earlier period, 
and already appears in the Notenbilchlein for Anna Magdalena of 1725. 
Bach may have chosen this Aria for its lucidity of form — two parts con- 
sisting of sixteen measures each — and for its plain, yet powerful harmonic 
construction. Here the composer no longer uses the simple technique of 
his early variations in the Italian manner. The element that joins the Sara- 
bande and its variations is the bass line of the theme with the harmonic 
progressions dependent on it. This bass foundation recurs in each of the 
30 variations, although it does not always appear in the lowest voice (cf. 
var. 25). Bach's technique is inspired by passacaglia and chaconne, but 

1 In most variations Bach indicated whether they are to be performed on a single 
manual or on two. Those for two manuals call for an even more advanced technique of 


differs from them in the unusual length and character of his theme. The 
problem of incorporating the same bassline into 30 effectively contrasting 
variations did -not seem big enough to^Bach. Without deviating from the 
variation form he presents in his set 9 different kinds of canon, one in every 
third variation. There is a canon at the unison, one at the second, the third, 
etc. Each time the interval of imitation is augmented by one tone until 
var. 27 ends up with the canon at the ninth. Besides, the canon at the fifth 
(var. 15) is not in straight imitation, but in inversion. There is also a 
Fughetta among the variations (No. 10), a stately French Ouverture with 
a following fugue (No. 16), and in the finale a roguish Quodlibet, which 
fits melodic phrases taken from two comic folksongs 1 into the frame-work 
of the variations. This little joke probably amused the master particularly, 
because it alluded to the humorous habit of singing several folksongs 
simultaneously, which was a favourite pastime at the family gatherings of 
the Bach clan. In between these contrapuntally elaborate variations are a 
number of highly diversified character pieces; the gay and vigorous var. 
4, the gracefully skipping var. 7, the brilliant var. 14, the light var. 20 in 
the manner of Scarlatti, the deeply moving chromatic var. 25 (like Nos. 
15 and 21 in the parallel key), and the magnificent Nos. 28 and 29, con- 
taining passages which vigorously contradict the traditional conception 
of the conservative Bach {Ex. 62). The mixture of the strictest logic with 


imaginative freedom of expression that manifests itself in this work finds 
its closest analogy in similar works by Beethoven and Brahms, for the 
1 8th century produced little or nothing in this field that could stand com- 
parison with Bach's gigantic work. 2 Yet even this, his supreme achieve- 
ment in the field of clavier music, is linked to the past, and it is extremely 
significant that a connection can be established between the Goldberg 
Variations and a work of Sebastian's greatest forebear, Johann Christoph 
(cf. p. 61). 

1 They are: Ich bin so lang' nicht bei dir gewest ('I long have been away from you') and 
Kraut und Ruben ('Cabbage and turnips'). 

2 Bach's two last works, the Musical Offering and the Art of the Fugue, which 
have a certain connection with the clavier, will be discussed in the next section. 

j. Sebastian's chamber music 279 


Bach's superb craftsmanship, exquisite in the most minute details, lent 
itself especially to the filigree style of instrumental chamber music. Some 
of his works in this field belong to the most inspired compositions he ever 
wrote. The majority owe their conception to Bach's activity in Cothen, 
which helped him to develop his instrumental style to supreme mastery. 

Significantly enough, it was not the Sonata for a solo instrument and 
figured bass, so widely used in his time, that really interested him. This 
traditional form was not too well suited for the rich polyphonic and 
harmonic texture of Bach's musical language. His 3 Sonatas and the Fugue 
for violin and figured bass {BWV 1021, 1023-24, 1026) as well as the 3 
Sonatas for flute and figured bass {BWV 1033-35), probably products of 
his early years in Cothen, clearly reveal a certain indifference towards this 
type of music. 1 Bach felt that it offered both too much and too little, and 
there is a certain groping for new musical forms in these works. In the 
Fugue in g the violin part is frequently treated in a very polyphonic 
manner, while the bass contains one rest of 1 5 and a half measures, sub- 
sequently followed by 20 measures on the same note d. A similar pedal 
point, lasting through 29 measures, is to be found at the beginning of the 
Sonata in e. Clearly this prepares for the violin compositions sen^a Basso. 
On the other hand, the Violin Sonata in G also exists as a Trio for flute, 
violin, and figured bass 2 {BWV 1038), a type which appealed far more 
to the composer. 

In 1720 Bach wrote 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas for violin solo {BWV 
1001-6) and at about the same time 6 Suites for violoncello solo {BWV 
1007-12), which count among the most powerful creations of his genius. 
Although the polyphonic treatment of the violin had been used in Italy, 
and particularly in Germany, before Bach's time, no other composer had 
written works of similar grandeur and magnificence for this instrument. 
Here violin and 'cello are used not so much as singing melody-instruments 
but as carriers of harmonic and polyphonic expression. Bach, the great 
fighter, sets himself the almost impossible task of writing 4-part fugues 

1 The 4 Violin Inventions published in BG, 45 {BWV, Anh. 173-76) were recognized 
as works by Bonporti. (Cf. p. 267.) 

2 Even if F. Blume's assumption (BJ, 1928) is correct and this arrangement is not by- 
Bach, it must have satisfied him, as it was preserved in his own handwriting. This auto- 
graph which Wilhelm Rust used for his edition of the Trio in BG, 9/221 is lost to-day. 


and complicated harmonic successions for a single and unaccompanied 
stringed instrument, with all its technical limitations. This he achieves by 
making the utmost demands on the ability of the player, and at the same 
time taxing the imagination and perception of the listener to the very 
limit. While the performer can never present more than two notes simul- 
taneously, 1 Bach expects the arpeggios of 3 and 4 notes and even succes- 
sions of notes to be understood as harmonic unities. 

The composer's joy in experimenting and adapting certain stylistic 
devices to changed conditions had previously caused him to use features 
of violin technique in his keyboard compositions. Here the process is 
reversed, and he adopts basic designs of keyboard technique in his music 
for a stringed solo instrument. The organistic character of the Fugue in C 
of the third Sonata is particularly noticeable; in a completely unprece- 
dented manner it employs as theme a chorale melody (Komm, heiliger 
Geist). The implied polyphony and the rich harmonic texture in these 
compositions have their counterpart in the painted architecture of the 
period, with its simulated collonades and vistas. 

It is characteristic that many movements from these Sonatas were 
subsequently transcribed for keyboard instruments. 2 In all these cases 
the implied contrapuntal writing of the original was changed with the 
greatest of ease into real polyphony. 

As to form, the 3 Violin Sonatas all use the 4 movements of the Church 
Sonata (slow-fast-slow-fast) with a fugue in the second place, and the slow 
inner movement as the only piece in a different key. On the other hand, 
the 3 Partitas, which in the autograph alternate with the Sonatas, show a 
great variety of dance forms. The first consists of 4 dances, each followed 
by a variation ('Double'); the third omits most of the standard movements 
and replaces them by free intermezzi in the manner of an orchestral suite. 

1 The theory expressed by Schering (BJ, 1904) and Schweitzer that the German 
players of Bach's time could produce full chords with loosely strung bows without 
resorting to arpeggios was refuted by Gustav Beckmann ('Das Violinspiel in Deutschland 
vor 1700,' 1918) and Andreas Moser (BJ, 1920). Nevertheless attempts were made to build 
curved bows for the performance of Bach's music for violin solo (cf. 'Bach Gedenkschrift,' 
1950, p. 75 and foil.)- Occasionally (Sarabandes of the Partitas in b and d) Bach prescribes 
chords which can only be played as slow arpeggios, since the same finger is required on 
the lowest and highest string. 

2 The fugue of the Sonata in g was transcribed for the organ (BWV 539), and the 
whole Sonata in a and the first movement of that in C were transcribed for the clavier 
(BWV 964 and 968). The prelude to the 3rd Partita was equipped by the composer with 
an orchestral accompaniment and in this form used as introduction to Cantatas Nos. 120a 
and 29. There is also a version for lute {BWV 1000) of the fugue from the Sonata 
in g. 

j. Sebastian's chamber music 281 

The second attaches, at the end of the series of dances, the famous 
Chaconne, which is longer than all the 4 preceding movements together 
and overshadows them in importance. It is an imposing set of variations 
on several, closely interrelated 8-measure themes, moulded into a power- 
ful 3 -part form and imbued with dramatic power; possibly the most 
stirring example of the 'triumph of spirit over substance' (Spitta) Bach 
achieved in these works. 

The 6 'Cello Suites do not present so great a variety of forms. They all 
start with a prelude, followed by Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, 2 
Galanterien and a Gigue. The similarity of their structure to that of the 
English Suites makes it appear likely that these two works were written 
at about the same time. The fifth Suite is composed for a 'cello, of which 
the top string is tuned to G instead of A; while the sixth Suite requires an 
instrument with five strings. 1 Although the technical limitations in the 
unwieldy 'cello were even greater than in the violin, thus making the 
inclusion of real fugues impossible, Bach succeeded in creating works of 
consummate mastery, equal, if not superior, to his music for violin solo. 
In the Prelude to the fourth Suite, for instance, he achieves, with the 
simplest means, the illusion of an organ pedal point used as a foundation 
for slowly gliding harmonies. 

While the master reached in his solo sonatas a lonely peak of grandeur 
to which for a long time nobody dared follow him, his Trios are imbued 
with stylistic trends which were to prove highly important for the future. 
Again Bach did not care too much for the favourite Baroque type, the 
Sonata for 2 melody instruments supported by figured bass. His output 
in this field is confined to 2 Sonatas in G {BWV 1038 2 and BWV 
1039), one of which was later transcribed into a Sonata for cembalo 
obbligato and viola da gamba {BWV 1027). The procedure which the 
composer adopted here is as simple as it is ingenious. He gave one 
melodic line to the viola da gamba, and the other to the right hand of the 
harpsichord player, while the bass part was assigned to the left hand of the 
clavierist. Such 'trios,' in which the keyboard instrument executed two 
parts and a string or wind instrument one, were used at least a century 

1 Such a violoncello a cinque corde> in which a top E string was added to the ordinary- 
four strings of the 'cello, was used occasionally in Bach's time. It was certainly not the 
viola pomposa, as Schweitzer assumes, and most likely not the violoncello piccolo either. 
Cf. C. Sachs ('Musical Instruments,' New York, 1940), who also righdy questions the old 
myth that Bach was the 'inventor' of the viola pomposa. 

2 Regarding the Sonata for flute, violin and continuo in G {BWV 1038), cf. p. 279. 
A sonata for 2 violins in C {BWV 1037) often attributed to Bach is probably the work of 
one of his pupils. 


before Bach, 1 but no other composer employed them as successfully and 
systematically. They became his favourite form of chamber music and in- 
clude some exquisite pieces like the 6 Sonatas for harpsichord and violin 
{BWV 1014-19), 3 Sonatas for harpsichord and viola da gamba {BWV 
1027-29), and 3 Sonatas for harpsichord and flute {BWV 1030-32). 

Bach's zest for experimenting made him break with the traditional 
aspect of the Trio Sonata in many other ways as well. Hitherto this had 
been a polyphonic composition in which the two upper parts had equal 
shares in the melodic material. The composer now fused it with elements 
of the Concerto, using da capo and rondo forms, and inserting long solo 
sections. He did not hesitate at times to employ the harpsichord as a mere 
accompanying instrument, or its upper part as a unison reinforcement of 
the melody. Altogether there is no uniformity in these Sonatas. Bach by 
no means confined himself to writing the conventional three parts; he 
occasionally used four and even five or six voices. There are movements in 
canonic or passacaglia forms, others of a prelude-like character. Their 
number also varies; three movements are employed in the flute Sonatas, 
four in the majority of the violin and viola da gamba Sonatas, and five in 
the last violin Sonata (in G). The variety of forms is matched by an abun- 
dance of different emotions. There are pieces happy and gay, energetic, 
stubborn, tender, sad, melancholy, or tragic in character. To emphasize 
the wide emotional range of this music, individual movements are given 
such descriptive headings as 'Andante un poco,' 'Adagio ma non tanto,' 
that are not too common in Bach's music. 

In ascribing the Sonatas for violin and harpsichord to the Cothen 
period, Forkel is apparently right, at least as far as their first draft is con- 
cerned. It seems most likely that the viola da gamba Sonatas also origin- 
ated in this period, as Prince Leopold was very fond of this instrument. 
On the other hand, the flute Sonatas appear to be products of a later 
period. The Sonata in E flat shows a progressive character that is to be 
found in Bach's music at the time when the artistic personalities of his 
eldest sons were beginning to unfold. Its 'Siciliano' has a tender sweetness 
that seems to belong to the period of Empfindsamkeit (sensibility). These 
works may have been written for the eminent Dresden flutist, P. G. 
Buffardin, with whom Bach was in close contact. In this same period he 
also revised his earlier violin Sonatas. There is a manuscript written by 
his son-in-law, Altnikol, that shows significant changes in the original 
works. The Adagio of the fifth Sonata increases the motion of the accom- 

1 Cf. Arnold Schering, 'Zur Geschichte der Solosonate in the i. Halfte des 17. 
Jahrhunderts,' in 'Riemann-Festschrift,' 1909. 

j. Sebastian's brandenburg concertos 283 

panying harpsichord from sixteenth to thirty-second notes, thus creating 
a prelude-like composition of an almost impressionistic character. An 
earlier version of the sixth Sonata starts with a movement in da capo form, 
which is repeated again after three slow movements. In later years Bach 
found this too monotonous; he retained the first two movements and 
added three new ones, thus creating an unorthodox but well-proportioned 
form: fast-slow-fast-slow-fast, with a movement for harpsichord solo in 
the centre. 

These different Sonatas show Bach again and again exploring all the 
possibilities to be derived from the transformation of the old trio into a 
workable duo for a melody instrument and clavier obbligato. Thus he 
planted new seeds for the growth of chamber music; his own sons in 
particular were strongly stimulated by their father's output in this field. 

Bach's Concertos stand at the very centre of his creative output. The 
composer's interest in the concertante principle and the concerto form had 
already manifested itself in his early works. But before he came to Cothen 
he had no opportunity to write real concertos. There were two different 
paths open to him: he could follow the model of Corelli's concerti grossi, 
which consisted of a number of brief movements contrasting in character 
and aiming at monumental simplicity; or he could adopt the type which 
had been given its definite form through Vivaldi, works in only three 
movements (fast-slow-fast), emphasizing the concertante principle, and 
using a rondo-like construction for the fast sections. Bach, while not over- 
looking the possibilities of the Corelli type, showed a decided preference 
for Vivaldi's concertos, as their compact and symmetrical architecture 
appealed to him. He made his first thorough study of them while engaged 
in arrangements for keyboard instruments in Weimar (cf. p. 149). How- 
ever, when he started writing concertos of his own, he by no means copied 
Vivaldi's style, but imbued it with new ideas. He both clarified and simpli- 
fied the Italian composer's rondo-form, presenting a straightforward 
eight-bar ritornel of all the players in the main key at the beginning and 
end of the movement, while fragments from it, transposed to related keys, 
appeared within the movement at strategic points. Between the massive 
pillars of these tutti passages are the graceful garlands of the solo episodes, 
providing modulating connections and mostly introducing new thematic 
material. Bach often reinforced the architectural solidity by using the da 
capo form of the Italian aria, or a chiastic construction (cf. p. 202), in 


which not only the first and last parts correspond, but a firm connection 
is also established between the second section and the one next to the last. 
He liked to combine the concerto form with that of the fugue, and even 
in homophonic movements, figurations of the solo instrument are 
accompanied by thematic ideas derived from the main ritornel {Ex. 63) 
in a way we would look for in vain in a Vivaldi concerto. 

randenburg Concerto H2H, first movement 

It seems strange that only two Concertos for violin solo and orchestra 
and one for two violins and orchestra (BWV 1041-43 ; all three were 
probably written in Cothen) should be preserved, while there are more 
than twice as many transcriptions of such works for solo harpsichord and 
strings in existence (cf. pp. 288-89). -Did Bach discard some of the original 
compositions as soon as the arrangements were completed; did these models 
only exist in his imagination and were never put to paper; or were some 
violin concertos lost after his death? These questions will probably never 
be answered; anyway, judging from the transcriptions, we may safely say 
that the three works preserved must have been among the very best Bach 
wrote in this field. 

The first movement of the Violin Concerto in E, written in da capo 
form, is typical of the supreme mastery with which solo instrument and 
accompanying orchestra confront each other and at other times join 
forces. In the Concerto in a, on the other hand, the initial movement 
anticipates features of the Sonata form in a manner which was to be 



adopted before long by Friedemann and Emanuel Bach. The slow move- 
ments in these two concertos exhibit a kind of ostinato bass, the serious 
character of which contrasts most effectively with the poignant sweetness 
of the solo violin. Of equal beauty is the slow movement of the Double 
Concerto, one of the most intimate and subjective cantilenas Bach ever 
wrote. While the orchestra is used here merely to support the soloists, the 
finale presents remarkable instances of the inversion of the traditional 
relationship between soloists and orchestra. The solo violins are entrusted 
with broad organistic chords, while the melody is supplied in vigorous 
unison by the orchestra 1 {Ex. 64). 



The six so-called Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-51), which 
Bach dedicated in the spring of 172 1 to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of 
Brandenburg (cf. p. 160), are not concertos for a single solo instrument, 
but examples of older forms of concerted music, showing, in the German 
fashion, a preference for wind instruments. In three of them (Nos. 1, 3, 6) 
the orchestra is composed of evenly balanced instrumental choirs, which 
toss the themes to and fro among themselves in charming conversation, 
only occasionally surrendering the lead to a single instrument out of their 
midst. Such compositions, based upon the old Venetian canzone with its 
contrasting instrumental choirs, are known as 'concerto symphonies.' 
There are also 3 concerti grossi in the set (Nos. 2, 4, 5) in which an 
accompanying orchestra, the ripieni, is confronted by the concertino 
consisting of three or four solo instruments. 

Even the Bach student, who expects the utmost variety in every work 
of the master, is amazed at the abundance of changing scenes in these six 
works conjured up by the composer's inexhaustible imagination. No. 2, 
which in its perfect structural proportion seems like the very prototype 

1 The first movement of this Concerto is influenced by Torelli's Violin Concerto 
No. 8, known to Bach from an organ arrangement by his friend, J. G. Walther. Cf. Schering, 
'Geschichte des Instrumentalkonzerts,' Leipzig, 1905. 

286 the Bach family 

of the concerto grosso, employs a concertino of trumpet, recorder, oboe, 
and violin. Of particular colouristic appeal is the use of the brass instru- 
ment in the high clarino register; indeed, the trumpet is treated in so 
brilliant a manner that the concerto grosso at times assumes the char- 
acter of a solo concerto. The same is true of No. 4, with a concertino 
of 2 recorders and a violin, where far greater demands on the virtuosity 
of the violinists are made than in any of Bach's concertos for this instru- 
ment. Likewise in No. 5, written for a concertino of flute, violin, and 
harpsichord, the keyboard instrument predominates and even has an un- 
accompanied solo cadenza of 65 measures in the first movement. For the 
first time the humble harpsichord, whose role in ensembles had always 
been that of supporting other instruments, assumes the proud part of a 
leader. Unlike the majority of Bach's concertos for clavier solo and 
orchestra, this work was obviously intended for the clavier from the out- 
set; it thus constitutes a milestone in the history of music as the first 
original clavier concerto ever written. Maybe Bach, who played the part 
himself, was inspired to compose it by the exquisite 'clavecyn' he had 
purchased in 171 9 for his Prince in Berlin. 1 As in Concerto No. 2, the 
middle movement uses solo instruments and bass only, thus assuming the 
character of real chamber music. The symphonic Concerto No. 1 employs 
the tiny violino piccolo (a third above the ordinary violin and shriller in 
tone) together with 6 wind instruments, strings, and continuo. The tradi- 
tional 3 movements are followed by a gay Minuet with 3 graceful trios 
meant to provoke applause, like the licenia at the end of a contemporary 
comic opera. The third Concerto introduces 3 powerful choirs of strings, 
each subdivided again into 3 parts. In order not to break up the gay mood, 
Bach omits the slow middle movement, inserting in its place a simple 
cadence, and he achieves the necessary contrast by using the two-part 
form of contemporary dances for the second fast movement. The most 
unusual scoring is to be found in No. 6 written for 2 viole, 2 viole da 
gamba, 'cello and continuo, while omitting wind instruments and even 
violins, and it seems to reflect the peculiar conditions at Cothen. 2 The most 
striking feature is the canon at a distance of one eighth note in the ritornel 
of the first movement. Bach's pupil, J. P. Kirnberger, used this in his 
Kunst des reinen Sat^es as an illustration for counterpoint in its strictest 

1 No less than 130 dialers were paid to Bach for this instrument, plus his travelling 

2 Cf. Smend, I.e. The Prince wanted a viola da gamba solo, which was therefore 
planned with not too great difficulties. Bach chose for his own part his favourite, the 
viola, and therefore entrusted it with an interesting task. 

j. Sebastian's orchestral suites 287 

form. It is characteristic of the non-academic quality of Bach's music, 
however, that the hearer who does not realize the polyphonic intricacy 
will yet derive immense enjoyment from the gaiety and brilliance of this 
work. In all the Brandenburg Concertos the strong rhythmic life and the 
inspired colouristic garb contribute towards loosening up and dissolving 
the solidity of the polyphonic texture. These compositions seem to em- 
body the splendour and effervescence of court life at Cothen, and, more- 
over, they clearly reveal the composer's delight in writing for a group of 
highly trained instrumentalists. There is an exuberance and optimism in 
this music that only a genius aware of his newly achieved, full mastery 
could call forth. Craftsmanship and inspiration, iron logic and zest for 
experimenting, here counterpoise each other to an extent rarely equalled 
again even by Bach himself. 

The two Orchestral Suites*- in C and b {BWV 1066-67) a l so belong to 
the Cothen period, while two other works of the same kind, both in D 
{BWV 1068-69), were probably written between 1727 and 1736. 2 To 
some extent these compositions show features linking them to Bach's con- 
certos. The overture and some of the dances in the Suite in b for flute and 
strings use the woodwind instrument with such virtuosity that they appear 
like movements in a flute concerto. The Suite in C for 2 oboes, bassoon, 
and strings, on the other hand, occasionally employs a concertino of the 3 
wind instruments, thus assuming the character of a concerto grosso. 
The second Suite in D, for 3 trumpets with timpani, 3 oboes with bassoon, 
and strings, makes the 3 choirs compete with each other in a manner not 
unlike a concerto symphony. The initial movement of all four Suites is a 
French Ouverture in which two slow movements are separated by a fast 
fugue frequently combined with the concerto form, the entrances of the 
theme in the full orchestral body being employed as ritornels, and the 
connecting and modulating episodes as solos. These overtures are 
followed in each case by a free succession of dances often arranged in 
pairs, and by little programmatic pieces, such as the high-spirited 
Badinerie (banter) in the Suite in b, the buoyant Rejouissance (rejoicing) 
in the second Suite in D, and the meditative Air z in the first Suite in D. 
In spite of the French titles and French forms, the orchestral Suites are 
true products of German soil, inspired as they are by the folklore of the 
country. This is joyful, radiant music, in which the composer does not 

1 Regarding the relation to J. Bernhard Bach's orchestral suites, cf. p. 101. 

2 The authenticity of a 5th Suite in g (BWV 1070) is very doubtful. 

3 This beautiful movement is best known in an arrangement for solo violin to be 
played on the G string. 



overwhelm us with his stupendous mastery, but rather captivates our 
hearts with sparkling wit and serene charm. 

An impressive array of concertos was, we might almost say, manu- 
factured during the Leipzig years. At that time the need for 'clavieristic' 
material was pressing as Bach's sons needed effective compositions, 
especially for their appearances in the Collegium Musicum. Bach had 
recourse to the method he had used in his trios with harpsichord obbligato. 
He gave the solo part of a previously composed violin concerto to the 
right hand of the keyboard player, whose left hand reinforced the bass 
of the composition, and a clavier concerto with accompanying strings was 
produced. Such arrangements actually exist of the two violin concertos 
in E and a as well as of the fourth Brandenburg Concerto {BWV 1054, 
1057-58). Three other clavier concertos {BWV 1052, 1055-56) evidently 
originated in the same way. The violin concertos on which they are based, 
however, have not survived. In such adaptations Bach transposed the 
pitch of the original composition one tone down, since the claviers of his 
time as a rule only went up to d'" and did not have e'", the traditional top 
note of his violin concertos. 1 Bach was naturally not satisfied mechanically 
to transfer the violin part to the right hand of the clavierist. He often 
wrote and rewrote the same arrangement several times, and in the course 
of this process his language became increasingly idiomatic. The bass part 
was enriched and middle voices were added, as the last movement of the 
Concerto in d {BWV 1052) exemplifies {Ex. 65). This is a vigorous 

The /trytr ncttx are found in*.n *dr/y ytrmloitj in. a IzLar Arrangement S&ch&dded the note* reproduced in smd.lHr type. 

composition, full of dramatic life which, if we may judge from its different 
versions, seems to have been a favourite with Sebastian. In the Concerto 
in f {BWV 1056) the original violinistic character is particularly notice- 
able, and it induced Gustav Schreck to attempt a reconstruction of the 

1 Cf. Howard Shanet in MQ, 1950. Contradictory theories regarding the originals 
which served Bach for his arrangements have been propounded by Spiro, Aber, Hirsch 
and others. Cf. 'Zeitschrift der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft,' XI, iooj BJ, 1913, 
1929, 1930. 

j. Sebastian's clavier concertos 289 

original violin concerto in the key of g. 1 A Concerto for harpsichord, 
flute and violin with strings {BWV 1044) uses the same combination of 
instruments as Brandenburg No. 5. It is an arrangement of a prelude and 
fugue for clavier from the Weimar period (cf. p. 263), which was parti- 
cularly suited for transcription, as both its sections showed, from the out- 
set, elements of the concerto form. Bach not only enlarged, but deepened 
the original, enhancing the power and dignity of the first version. Between 
the two fast movements he inserted a slow one from his organ trio in d, 
which he scored in the traditional manner for the solo instruments only, 
omitting the accompanying strings. 

Similarly, of the six Concertos for two, three and four claviers respec- 
tively with string accompaniment, not one seems to represent the form in 
which it was originally written. That for four claviers {BWV 1065) is an 
arrangement of Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 violins op. 3/ 10, and it seems quite 
possible that the two Concertos for three claviers {BWV 1063-64) are 
also based on works by other composers. The two Concertos for two 
claviers in c {BWV 1060, 1062) are adaptations of his own works. 2 Some- 
what different is the situation in the case of the Concerto for two claviers 
in C {BWV 1061). Here there is no trace of the violinistic character 
conspicuous in the other adaptations. It has the appearance of an original 
clavier composition, and as a matter of fact the two solo parts exist in 
autographs. However, as the accompanying voices, which are not pre- 
served in Bach's own writing, are mainly reinforcing the parts of the key- 
board instruments, it seems quite likely that the orchestration was a later 
addition, and that the work was originally written for two claviers only. 
It might be mentioned in this connection that there also exists in Sebas- 
tian's hand a Concerto a duoi cembali concertati without any accompani- 
ment, which his son, Friedemann, composed at an early age (cf. p. 321), 
possibly under the influence of the Concerto in C. 

In these concertos for two to four claviers Bach was confronted by 
the difficulty of having similar bass lines in the various solo parts. He 
tried to counteract the resulting monotony by using the claviers in turns 
as solo and as filling continuo instruments. In the Concerto in d for three 
claviers, the first harpsichord is given far more of the solo material than 
the other two. A better balance is reached in the solemn and brilliant 
Concerto in C for the same combination. Although these arrangements 

1 Peters Edition, No. 3069a. A different adaptation of this Concerto was made by 
J. B. Jackson for Oxford University Press. 

2 BWV 1062 is based on the concerto for 2 violins in d; stylistic reasons point to 
similar conditions for BWV 1060, although its model is not known. 


show the hand of the artisan rather than that of the artist, they are highly 
attractive ensemble music, radiating joyous strength and vitality. 

It is significant that clavier concertos formed the basis for further 
arrangements. With minor or major changes they made excellent intro- 
ductions to cantatas, and at times the composer even adapted them into 
vocal numbers. 1 Once more, this furnishes evidence for Bach's conception 
of the unity of music. 

In his last period of composition only two ensemble works were 
written, but they are among the greatest Bach ever created. 

The Musical Offering (BWV 1079) belongs to the series of contra- 
puntal variations favoured by Bach during the latter part of his life (cf. 
p. 206). This time the basis of the variations is the 'truly royal theme* 
which King Friedrich of Prussia offered for elaboration during Bach's 
visit to the Palace at Potsdam 2 (Ex. 66). Bach felt that he had by no 

means exhausted all the possibilities of the theme in his improvisations 
before the King. He therefore worked on it after his return to Leipzig, 
and the result seemed so highly satisfying to him that he had the whole 
cycle engraved. Composition and production must have proceeded very 
rapidly, since the printed dedication to the King is dated July 7, 1747, the 
actual visit having taken place just two months earlier. Apparently the 
composer wanted to send his Offering at a time when the memory of his 
visit was still fresh in the mind of his host. 

1 The first movement of the Clavier Concerto in E was transposed to D, the solo 
given to the concertante organ, and 3 oboes were added, in which form it appeared as 
introduction to Cantata No. 169. The Siciliano of this Concerto was employed with an 
added vocal part for an aria in the same Cantata, while the last movement with added oboe 
d'amore made up the introductory Sinfonia in Cantata No. 49. All 3 movements of the 
Clavier Concerto in d were used as the introduction to Cantata No. 188, the solo being 
again taken over by the organ. Incidentally, the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto 
No. 1 was used unchanged as introduction to Cantata No. 52, and that of Brandenburg 
No. 3, with 2 obbligato horns and 3 oboes added, as introduction to Cantata No. 174. 

2 It seems unlikely that Bach changed the idea given to him by the King, as Hermann 
Keller suggests in 'Das konigliche Thema,' 'Musica,' 1950. Such an action would have 
annoyed the King, who was a good enough musician to remember what theme he had 
given Bach. 


The great speed of its production may have been partly responsible 
for the disconnected form of the original publication. The composer 
seems to have sent his manuscript in instalments, and the engraver 1 put 
it on copper whenever a batch arrived, at the same time taking good care 
to fill each of the costly plates as completely as possible by inserting short 
canons into spare places. Accordingly, the original edition presents the 
work in four separate sections printed partly on oblong paper, and partly 
in upright form. The confusing arrangement which resulted made it diffi- 
cult for earlier students fully to comprehend the architecture of the work. 
Indeed, so outstanding an expert as Spitta describes the Musical Offering 
as 'a strange conglomerate of pieces, wanting not only internal connection 
but external uniformity.' Actually the work shows the perfect construc- 
tion which we may expect of a composition written by Bach at the peak 
of his mastery. 2 At the beginning stands a three-part Ricercar (fugue), 3 
at the end a six-part Ricercar; in the centre a Trio sonata containing two 
fugues. Between the first Ricercar and Trio are 5 two-part Canons, to 
which in a third voice the r.t. (royal theme) is added as a cantus firmus. 
The central Trio is again followed by 5 Canons, this time using the r.t. and 
its variations as subject for the actual canonic elaboration. It is character- 
istic of Bach's unerring feeling for form that the first of the Trio sonata's 
fugues, written in concerto style and da capo form, introduces the r.t. as a 
cantus firmus as the preceding 5 Canons had done. In the second fugue, on 
the other hand, a variation of the r.t. is employed as a subject, thereby 
anticipating the technique of the following 5 Canons. Thus the 13 numbers 
derived from the r.t. appear in the following, strictly chiastic order: 

Trio Sonata 

Ricercar 5 Canons 1st fugue 2nd fugue 5 Canons Ricercar 

3-part fugue using r.t. as using r.t. as using r.t. as subjecting 6-part fugue 

based on r.t. cantus firmus cantus firmus fugue r.t. to canonic based on r.t. 

subject elaboration 

The first and the last Ricercar are written for clavier. 4 They are 
directly connected with the visit to Potsdam, when Bach improvised on 

1 It was Bach's pupil, J. G. Schiibler, who also engraved the composer's last 
organ chorales. 

* Cf. H. T. David's edition of the work and accompanying booklet published by 
G. Schirmer, New York, 1945. 

3 Bach uses the expression Ricercar here to designate an instrumental fugue employing 
elements of the vocal style. 

* The original edition prints the second Ricercar in open score, but it can be per- 
formed without difficulty by a single clavier player, and Bach's autograph presents it on 
2 staves only. 


one of the King's pianofortes a three-part fugue based on the r.t., bu 
evaded the suggestion of employing the same subject in a six-part fugue. 
The six-part composition which the master played in Potsdam was on a 
theme of his own choice, and the elaboration of the r.t. was carried out 
only after his return. Accordingly the two Ricercars are quite different in 
character. The first (incidentally, Bach's only piece that we know to have 
been written for the modern^ pianoforte) lacks the complete logic and 
perfect balance of the last; it obviously represents Bach's improvisation 
and may be taken as an example of his extemporizing in strict forms. The 
six-part Ricercar, on the other hand, belongs to the most outstanding 
fugues Bach ever wrote. It is a work of the largest proportions, whose 
profundity of thought, magnificent poise, and loftiness of sound make it 
one of the greatest monuments of polyphonic music. 

While in these two works for the clavier the composer seems to stand 
in the foreground, the remaining eleven numbers appear to be destined 
for the exalted personage to whom the work is dedicated. These are 
chamber music compositions, two of which (the Trio and one canon) 
expressly prescribe the use of a flute for the top voice, while in .the majority 
of the others, although no instrumentation is indicated, the highest part 
can be taken over by this favourite instrument of the King. 1 The ten 
canons are predominantly retrospective in character; in the best traditions 
of the past, canons in unison and octave, canons of the inversion and 
augmentation, 'crab' canons as well as a canonic fugue 2 are introduced. 
Bach's presentation of the canons tests the efficiency of the performer; as 
a rule they are not printed in full score; in two cases not even a clue as to 
the manner of imitation is given, and the composer provokingly remarks 
'quaerendo invenietis' (if you seek, you will find). Here the 'puzzle 
canons' of the late Middle Ages are being resurrected; and similarly Bach's 
neglecting to indicate on what instrument most of his two-, three- and 

1 The copy which Bach sent to his royal patron contains several Latin inscriptions 
to the King. On the first page is an acrostic, the first letters of which formed the word 
'Ricercar': Regis Iussu Cantio et Reliqua Canonica Arte resoluta (According to the order of 
the King the tune and the remainder are resolved with canonic art). To the Canon in 
augmentation the composer wrote: Notulis crescentibus crescat fortuna Regis (May the 
fortune of the King grow with the length of the notes), and similarly the spiral canon bears 
the annotation: Ascendenteque modulatione ascendat Gloria Regis (And may the Glory of the 
King rise with the rising modulation). 

2 In a canon of the inversion the imitating voice answers each step upward with a 
similar step downward, and vice versa; in a canon in augmentation every note of the 
imitating voice is longer (usually twice as long) than in the original; in a crab canon the 
imitating voice proceeds backward, starting with the last note and ending with the first; 
a canonic fugue combines features of canon and fugue. 

j. Sebastian's art of the fugue 293 

four-part canons are to be performed re-creates the situation of earlier 
centuries, when the players used the instrument that happened to be avail- 
able at the moment. However, the solid harmonic foundation of these 
contrapuntal masterpieces and the idea of a spiral canon belong to Bach's 
own time. This Canon per tonos (canon through the keys) modulates in 
its 8 measures one whole tone up; it has to be performed six times before 
all the parts once more reach the original key of c. Also a typical product 
of the 1 8th century is the Trio for flute, violin, and continuo, the heart of 
the whole work. It is a church sonata of great dignity and beauty, the 
most outstanding among Bach's trios. 

Altogether the Musical Offering appears as the work of a master who 
is drawing conclusions not only from the experience of a lifetime, but 
from that of a whole era. It presents in a compact and monumental form 
a synthesis of the musical thought of three centuries. 

The Art of the Fugue (BWV '1080) is Bach's last great composition. 
The master seems to have been engaged in this tremendous task after 
the completion of the Musical Offering, and in this case, too, he planned 
to have the work become generally known through print. He supervised 
part of the engraving, but before it was quite finished, and before he even 
had a chance of completing his manuscript, death overtook him. The Art 
of the Fugue remained a torso, and neither the autograph nor the original 
printing issued after Bach had gone, can give an exact idea of his inten- 
tions. There are doubts regarding the precise order in which the individual 
numbers were to be arranged; we do not know what end the composer 
had planned for his work, and it is possible that even the title, Art of 
the Fugue, was not conceived by Bach himself. 

Yet, the sections which we have are of such awe-inspiring majesty 
that even in its fragmentary form the Art of the Fugue appears as one of 
the greatest products of the human mind. 

The composition seems like a sequel to the Musical Offering. It too 
is a set of contrapuntal variations, all based on the same idea and all in the 
same key. There is even a melodic resemblance between the two works, 
for the subject of the Art of the Fugue appears like an ingenious con- 
densation of the 'royal theme.' And again, in most of the variations, Bach 
omits any indication as to the instruments for which his composition is 
intended. It seems likely that the composer meant his swan song to be 
keyboard music primarily, but the Art of the Fugue sounds even more 
impressive when played by a string quartet or varying ensembles. 1 How- 
ever, while in the former work the emphasis was on canonic elaboration, 

1 Cf. the editions by Roy Harris and Wolfgang Graser. 


here all the possibilities of fugal writing are explored. Even the four 
canons which are included are intended to illustrate aspects of fugal 

Despite, or perhaps because of, its deceptively plain and unobtrusive 
character, the short theme of the Art of the Fugue is well suited to serve 
as a foundation for the monumental edifice. It is completely regular and 
symmetrical in its construction; played in inverted form its main intervals 
remain practically unchanged. If it is introduced together with its in- 
version, the result is a satisfactory two-part composition. 

While Bach presents this theme in ever-changing rhythmic and 
melodic variation (Ex. 67), he gradually unfolds a complete manual of 

Xx-67 ^ e Theme ofihe„ Art of ihelugue "with tw-or-ariaiions 

fugal composition. Each Contrapunctus (as he calls the individual varia- 
tions to emphasize their learned character) gives a definite solution to a 
basic problem of fugal writing. The composition begins with a group of 
fugues which exhibit the theme partly in its original shape and partly 
inverted. Following this are counter-fugues and stretto-fugues, 1 presenting 
the theme not only in direct and contrary motion, but also in diminished 
and augmented form. Bach illustrates the possibilities of fugues with 2 
and 3 themes, while the mighty quadruple fugue that was to form the 
climax of the work breaks off in its 239th measure. Just after the composer 
— like a medieval artist portraying himself in a corner of the picture — had 
inserted his own name B-A-C-H 2 into the work, this Contrapunctus 
abruptly stops, and later generations were faced with the fascinating, 
albeit dangerous, task of guessing at the master's intentions. 3 The most 

1 A counter-fugue uses the inversion of the subject as an answer. In a stretto two or 
more voices present a theme in such close succession that a new statement begins before 
the previous one is completed. 

2 The German name for the note b is H; for the note b flat it is B. Therefore the notes 
b flat-a-c-b natural signify in German B-A-C-H. 

* Earlier historians like Moritz Hauptmann, Wilhelm Rust and Philipp Spitta assumed 
that the incomplete Contrapunctus, which did not contain the main subject of the whole 
cycle, did not really belong to the work. Gustav Nottebohm discovered, however, that the 


stunning (though not necessarily the most complicated) Contrapunctus 
in the whole set is the four-part mirror fugue. Here Bach presents all the 
parts as rectus in their original form, and then again as inversus in in- 
verted form. To make the mirror reflection doubly realistic, the soprano 
of the rectus becomes the bass of the inversus, the contralto changes 
into a tenor, the tenor into an alto, and the bass into a soprano, with the 
result that the whole composition now seems to stand on its head. 

Such a playful and experimental character is not to be found in a 
second mirror fugue in 3 parts. This Contrapunctus is primarily intended 
for the clavier, but it can only be performed by two players, as the parts 
are too widely spaced to be executed by ten fingers. Since this is a 3 -part 
composition, one of the four hands of the performers would remain idle, 
which seems a waste to the thrifty composer. He therefore inserts a filling 
fourth part which is completely independent of the highly artistic con- 
struction of the mirror fugue. Theoretically this foreign body, added 
merely for practical reasons, destroys the pure construction of the contra- 
puntal masterpiece, but it produces easily playable and attractive music, 
which seems to Bach of paramount importance. 

This small detail offers a key to the understanding of the whole work. 
Like the Inventions and the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Art of the 
Fugue was intended as a didactic composition and as such it offers the 
quintessence of contrapuntal mastery. However, Bach was unable to write 
dry instructive precepts only. Under his hands the textbook changed into 
a poem imbued with the mystery of pure beauty. The solemn pathos 
which permeates each of these contrapuntal variations gives this farewell 
of a genius the transcendental character of art conceived on the threshold 
of eternity. 

3 subjects of the fugue could be combined with the main theme of the Art of the Fugue, 
thus proving that Bach meant to write a quadruple fugue for his work. This shrewd 
conclusion inspired Riemann, Busoni (in his 'Fantasia Contrapunctica') and Tovey to 
attempt completions of the fugue. But nobody who has ever heard a performance of the 
work in which, without retard, the great fugue suddenly breaks off, would wish to exchange 
that deeply moving experience for a smooth and effective ending, however scholarly 
the execution. 


looking back on the activities of the Bach family as a whole during the 
first half of the 18th century, it may be said that simultaneously with the 
rise of an immortal genius out of their midst, the Bach musicians succeeded 
in greatly extending their spheres of influence beyond the original Bach 
centres. In Erfurt the descendants of Johann Bach were still active as 
organists and town musicians up to 1740, and as late as the 19th century 
Bachs of other lines were working there. In Eisenach Johann Bernhard 
(18) followed the great Johann Christoph (13) and was succeeded by a 
son, Johann Ernst (34). In Arnstadt another Johann Ernst (25), son of 
Ambrosius' twin brother, took over when Sebastian resigned as organist 
of the 'New Church,' and continued in this capacity up to his death in 
1739. An important new Bach centre was established through Johann 
Ludwig in Meiningen. Here, after his death, his son and grandson served 
in the double capacity of court painter and court organist far beyond the 
period under discussion, in fact up to the year 1846. In the Franconian 
city of Schweinfurt three generations of Bachs worked either as cantor 
or organist, until Johann Elias (39) died in 1755. In Ohrdruf Sebastian's 
eldest brother, Johann Christoph (22), was succeeded by sons and grand- 
sons serving up to 18 14. In Jena Johann Nicolaus (27) held the post of 
University music director and organist for no less than 58 years. Miihl- 
hausen, on the other hand, had three Bach organists in succession, among 
whom Johann Friedrich (29), a son of the great Johann Christoph, main- 
tained the old tradition of stability in the 22 years of his service, while 
both Sebastian and his son, Johann Bernhard (47), stayed there for very 
short periods only. This list could be continued further, were we to 
include the Bach cantors or organists working in smaller communities of 
Thuringia. The locality of the Bach centres proclaims the family's deep- 
rooted loyalty to that part of Germany chosen by their forefathers. Yet 
there was an increasing number of Bach musicians who felt compelled to 
try their luck in new territories. The second son and namesake of the 
great Johann Christoph (13), after sojourning in Hamburg and Rotter- 
dam, settled down as clavier teacher in England; one of his brothers 
travelled as organ builder to the North and was never heard of any more. 
Johann Jakob, too, (23), Sebastian's favourite brother, dreamed of adven- 


tures in foreign lands. He entered the Swedish army as a bandsman and 
his desire for travel found fulfilment, as he accompanied the army as far as 
Constantinople. Later he settled down as court musician in Stockholm, 
where he died in 1722. Sebastian himself, although passionately fond of 
travel, had no chance of undertaking such adventures. His creative urge 
dominated his life, and he went to those places where he hoped to find 
the best opportunities for congenial work. From 17 17 onwards he lived 
away from Thuringia, and his sons, as will subsequently be shown, settled 
down in cities the family had never lived in before. 

Sebastian held socially, economically, and artistically, a position of his 
own among his kinsmen. Not only did his income exceed by far that of 
any other member of the family, but he also enjoyed as Electoral and 
Royal Polish Court composer a social distinction not accorded to any 
other Bach of his time. And though his contemporaries could not grasp 
the importance of his achievements as a composer, he was considered the 
greatest German virtuoso on the organ and the most eminent expert on 
this instrument. However, in spite of his position high above all other 
Bach musicians, Sebastian was at one with them in his basic attitude to- 
wards his profession. Like most of his forefathers and relatives he con- 
sidered it his main purpose to serve God in music. It was customary for 
him to start a new composition with the inscription /(esu)/(uva) and to 
end it with the letters s(o\o) D(eo) G(loria). The Lutheran faith was the 
spiritual well-spring of his art, as it had been for the family in the past 
hundred years, and he was unaffected by the new trends of thought which 
threatened to undermine the mighty fortress of Protestantism. Being 
spiritually as well as artistically rooted in tradition was one of the sources 
of Sebastian's strength. On the other hand it was a decisive factor in 
determining the place he occupied in relation to contemporary music. By 
the time Bach had reached his zenith as a composer, a new generation had 
grown up which proclaimed a different artistic creed. They wanted music 
to be simple, natural and graceful and they criticized Sebastian Bach, as 
their spokesman, Johann Adolf Scheibe, put it, for 'his turgid and con- 
fused style . . . darkening beauty by an excess of art.' Here was a deep 
cleavage between old and new conceptions which Sebastian did not 
attempt to bridge. Although he occasionally showed that he was quite 
able to master the new language, he chose, with advancing years, to live 
in splendid isolation, concerned only with fulfilling his tremendous self- 
imposed tasks. The result was that the younger generation had little, if 
any, interest in a composer whom they considered hopelessly old- 


The era of J. S. Bach marked the peak of creative achievement in the 
family history. No longer was the output confined to a few forms of com- 
position. In the first half of the 1 8th century the Bachs cultivated every 
type of music known in their time, with the significant exceptions of opera 
and Catholic church music. However, their widespread activities were not 
accompanied by commensurate recognition and fame. These were to come 
to the family in the following generation, whose contributions encom- 
passed the entire realm of music. 





(1750- ) 


in the 1 8th century the triumphant rise of Natural Science brought about 
a complete change in man's general outlook and conception of the Uni- 
verse. The former uncritical acceptance of doctrines handed down by the 
writers of antiquity had been replaced by empirical observation leading to 
the revolutionary discoveries of a Galileo, Newton, and Kepler. Before 
long scientific methods were not confined to the domain of Science. All 
manifestations of life were subordinated to Reason. Superstition and 
bigotry were relentlessly exposed, and in all realms of life antiquated pre- 
judices were thrown overboard. The spirit of Enlightenment also gradually 
undermined the bastions of the Christian faith and even the Muses were 
expected to follow closely the dictates of Reason. A certain trend towards 
Naturalism may be observed in the Rococo style originating in the second 
quarter of the 18th century. Shepherds and shepherdesses became the 
fashion both in poetry and in painting; for they displayed the simplicity, 
charm and impudent gaiety which people of the Rococo era cherished. In 
music this spirit produced the style galanu The intricacies of Baroque 
contrapuntal art were forsworn as being contrary to reason, and a mono- 
die style was the goal. 'The ear,' as Mattheson claimed, 'often derives 
more satisfaction from a single, well-ordered voice developing a clear-cut 
melody in all its natural freedom than from 24 parts which, in order to 
share in the melody, tear it to such an extent that it becomes incomprehens- 
ible.' As to the emotional content, the aim professed by the song- 
composer Valentin Gorner is typical: 'to write engaging, charming, 
jocular, graceful, enamoured, and gay tunes.' It should not be overlooked 
that the new Rococo style in music grew at the very time when Baroque 
composition reached its climax in Sebastian Bach and Handel. On the 
other hand the style galant did not remain unchallenged even among the 
younger generation. The English philosopher, Edward Young, and the 
German, J. Georg Hamann, proved that the creations of genius are not 
based on reasoning and theoretical speculation, but on divine inspiration. 
In music the delicate and carefree artistic idiom which had conquered 
Southern and Western Europe was replaced, particularly in Northern 
Germany, by a more solid musical language in which emphasis was laid 
on expressive power and sensibility (Empfindsamkeii). 'It is the business 



of music,' declared Daniel Webb in his 'Observations on the Correspon- 
dence between Poetry and Music,' 'to express passions in the way they 
rise out of the soul.' And Philipp Emanuel Bach exhorted his followers 
with the axiom: 'A musician cannot move others unless he himself is 

Even before the Empfindsamkeit reached its climax in the 'Storm and 
Stress' of the early seventies, to which most great spirits of the time made 
significant contributions, a fusion of the two main forms of Rococo music 
was envisioned. The style galant and the Empfindsamkeit were combined 
into a new idiom of early classicism that was gay and light, yet tender and 
deeply felt; an idiom which represented a fine balance of form and content, 
of the language of the heart and that of the intellect. Attempts towards 
reaching a union of these apparently incongruous elements were made as 
early as 1760, although the classical style did not reach its highest perfec- 
tion until much later in the symphonies and quartets of a Haydn and 

This evolution may be observed in the most diverse artistic and 
spiritual manifestations of the time. There is a close affinity between 
musical classicism, the ideals of humanism and world brotherhood, and 
the noble simplicity and quiet grandeur manifested in contemporary 
literature and fine arts. The work of the Bachs was determined by these 
changing trends, and at the same time it contributed greatly towards 
shaping them. 



J. Sebastian Bach=Maria Barbara Bach 


1 684- 1 720 

Wilhelm Friedemann=Dorothea Elisabeth Georgi 



Wilhelm Adolf Gotthilf Wilhelm Friederica Sophia == Johann Schmidt 

1752-52 1754-56 1757-1801 1761-? 

Sophia Dorothea Sophie Friederika 
1793-? I797-? 

the adolescence of Friedemann 1 was described in the story of Sebastian's 
life. We left the consideration of the career of this eldest son of the master 
when, in 1733, he started independently in Dresden. The fond hopes that 
accompanied him seemed fully justified. At the age of 23 Friedemann was 
an outstanding and inspired organ virtuoso whose improvisations 
approached those of his father in grandeur and imaginative power, while 
in the field of composition he also showed definite promise. The position 
he held at Dresden's Sophienkirche was not an important one, but it had 
the advantage of taking up but little of the organist's time. He was 
required to play every Monday at 8 a.m., and every Sunday and feast-day 
for a morning and an afternoon service; this gave Friedemann an oppor- 
tunity for continuing his studies. Although music naturally occupied the 
centre of his activities, he still continued the mathematical work which 
had captivated his mind while he attended Leipzig University. In this 
respect Friedemann was the true son of his father, on whom the world of 
numbers and their symbolic use in music exercised a real fascination. 
Moreover, Friedemann did a great deal of teaching, and one of his pupils 
brought him much satisfaction and prestige. This was young Johann 
Theophilus Goldberg, whose name has survived in the history of music 
as the pianist who played Sebastian Bach's 'Aria with 30 Variations' at 
night to his protector, Count Keyserlingk, in order to help the Count for- 
get the pains and insomnia caused by a serious illness. At times Goldberg 

1 Cf. Martin Falck, 'Wilhelm Friedemann Bach,' Leipzig, 19 13. 



was taken by the Count to Leipzig, to get instruction on certain problems 
from Sebastian Bach, but it was mainly Friedemann who taught the 
brilliant pianist; and though this virtuoso naturally held a unique position 
among the organist's pupils, it may be assumed that Friedemann at that 
time did not mind 'informing the youth' (as the 18th century described 
work of this kind) and was a capable teacher. 

Social and artistic contacts were easily established. Friedemann had 
occasionally visited Dresden with his father and had met many musicians 
there. He knew the great Adolf Hasse, opera director at Dresden, and 
Hasse's wife, the renowned prima donna, Faustina Bordoni, and he saw 
much of the eminent flautist, P. G. BufTardin, who years ago had taught 
Sebastian's elder brother, Johann Jakob (cf. p. 297), when that adventure- 
loving musician came to Constantinople as oboist in the Swedish army. 
Friedemann also got on well with other court musicians and invited them 
to visit his father in Leipzig for communal music-making, an invitation 
which meant much to any good musician. After Sebastian was appointed 
in 1736 Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Court composer (an honour for 
which the master expressed his gratitude by giving a most magnificent 
recital on the new Silbermann organ of Dresden's Frauenkirche), his son 
had no difficulty in making contacts with the music-loving aristocrats at 
the court. Thus in many ways the father extended from a distance a 
helping hand to his beloved 'Friede,' smoothing out difficulties which he 
himself, in his youth, had had to overcome unaided. 

And yet, in spite of such manifest advantages, Dresden presented 
problems, and even dangers, to an unstable, highly impressionable young 
artist. How utterly different was life at the Saxon capital from that which 
Friedemann had experienced at the Thomas Cantor's home! There the 
strictest economy prevailed; every penny had to be accounted for and, for 
the sake of a few outstanding thalers, his father had spent hours and hours 
drafting lengthy petitions and complaints to his monarch. The Bachs' 
home contained just what was necessary for living; luxury in furniture, 
food or clothes would have been considered unseemly for a man in Sebas- 
tian's position. Those standards of economy, and even austerity, which 
were considered a matter of course by the Bach children, seemed strangely 
out of place in Dresden. At the court, operas, ballets, redoutes, sleigh- 
rides, and the most ingenious illuminations followed each other in a 
breath-taking succession, all presented with the most expensive settings 
and costumes. The monarch did not mind spending a sum of 40,000 
thalers on one carnival season alone, besides a huge amount of money 
on the enormous entertainment programme for the rest of the year. It was 

W. FRIEDEMANN IN DRESDEN (1733-1746) 305 

a glittering fairyland into which Friedemann had moved, a land where a 
newly appointed ambassador was received by 30 state coaches, each drawn 
by 6 magnificent horses, and led over a bridge lit by some 3000 lamps. 
The musicians at the Dresden court lived in an atmosphere vastly different 
from that in Leipzig (a fact that Sebastian felt impelled to mention in a 
petition to his Leipzig superiors). Hasse drew for his 'pretty little tunes,' 
as Sebastian smilingly described them to his son, a salary quite beyond 
that of the Leipzig director musices. He and Faustina each received 
6000 thalers a year, which was about eight times Sebastian's income, and 
were given besides a travel allowance of 500 thalers and the chance to 
earn a great deal through guest appearances. 

All this was strangely disturbing and likely to upset a young man's set 
of values. Maybe Friedemann would have been able to throw over the 
family standard and to adopt wholeheartedly the outlook on life prevailing 
at the Dresden court; but this was impossible, for he did not belong to the 
luxurious, dazzling court world, and could only watch it with a fascina- 
tion tinged with envy. A Protestant organist was of very little significance 
indeed in Dresden at that time. The Elector, following the example of his 
father, Augustus 'the Strong,' who had given up Protestantism in order 
to become King of Poland, was a devout Catholic; his wife was an 
Austrian princess with the traditional interest of the Hapsburgs in the 
Catholic Church, and during their reign Protestantism lost more and more 
ground in Dresden. It is significant that the Elector had a magnificent new 
Catholic church built; while the former Protestant court church in the 
castle was remodelled into living quarters for employees, and the Protes- 
tant court servants were ordered henceforth to worship at the Sophien- 
kirche. Great indignation prevailed among the non-Catholics, and Friede- 
mann especially had good reasons for being vexed. Not only was his work 
hampered by the alterations made in his church, into which equipment 
from the former court church was fitted, but he had to play on Sundays 
for two morning services (one extra for the court employees, who were 
unwilling to mix with the regular congregation), without receiving any 
additional remuneration. 

Even in Dresden there were, it is true, better positions to be found for 
a Protestant musician. Working on the new organ of the Frauenkirche, for 
instance, carried greater distinction, and Friedemann must have had his 
eye on the vacancy which occurred there in 1742. It was filled, however, 
by another pupil of Sebastian's, Gottfried August Homilius, who gave 
such satisfaction that he was later appointed Kreu^kantor and musical 
director of Dresden's three main Protestant churches. Changing from one 


organ to another within a town was by nomeans unusual — for example, 
Sebastian's rival at Leipzig, Johann Gottlieb Gorner, had done so (cf. 
p. 174) — and the fact that Homilius was preferred to Friedemann Bach 
seems to point to young Bach's inability to establish cordial relations with 
his superiors. Nor did Friedemann make much headway as a composer of 
secular music. In Dresden the Italian taste reigned supreme, and the 
organist's language, although it adopted the Italian idiom in various 
details, seemed too complicated and too teutonic to please the capital's 
music lovers. 

Gradually it became apparent that Friedemann would always remain 
an outsider in the glittering Saxon town, and that real success was not 
attainable there. He began to look for a chance to leave Dresden and find 
a position elsewhere with greater responsibilities and wider scope. When 
he was 36, a fine opportunity materialized, and it is significant that it took 
him to a place where his father was well known. It will be remembered 
that while working in Weimar, Sebastian, tempted by the outstanding 
merits of the organ built at that time in Halle's Liebfrauenkirche, had 
applied for the vacant organist's post and given his trial performance to 
everybody's delight. The negotiations had led to no result, much to the 
disappointment of tjie Halle electors, as Sebastian found the conditions 
offered less desirable than those granted him at Weimar. Eventually the 
master succeeded in conciliating the Halle authorities, and when work on 
the organ was finished, he was invited to test the instrument (cf. p. 147). 
Since then 30 years had passed, during which Gottfried KirchhorT had 
served as organist at the Liebfrauenkirche. When on his death in January 
1746 the position became vacant, the Bach family was naturally interested 
in securing this important appointment for one of its members. Sebastian 
probably got into touch with his former correspondent, August Becker, 
who was still a member of the church board. Friedemann himself must 
have been able to present recommendations of the highest order, for 
against all precedent he was given the position without passing the 
customary trial performance. There is some possibility that the decisive 
word in his favour was uttered by Friedrich II ('the Great') of Prussia. 
The King had just won a victory over Saxony in the 'second Silesian war' 
(1744-45) an d in December 1745 occupied Dresden. During the nine days 
of his stay, this ardent friend of the muses enjoyed with the greatest zest 
all that the Dresden musicians had to offer; indeed, on the very day of his 
entry into the capital, he attended the premiere of a Hasse opera. As 
Philipp Emanuel Bach had for several years been in the King's service, it 
seems likely that Friedrich, interested in his accompanist's elder brother, 

W. FRIEDEMANN IN HALLE (1746-I770) 307 

heard him play while in Dresden. The city of Halle belonged to the state 
of Brandenburg which was united with Prussia, and although the appoint- 
ment of an organist was a purely municipal matter, Friedrich could easily 
have hinted that the choice of Friedemann Bach would be agreeable to 
him. Anyway, on April 16, 1746, the contract was signed — it was identical 
with that sent to Sebastian in 1714 — and on Whitsunday Friedemann 
assumed his new duties. It was a great step forward in every respect. The 
position formerly held by such eminent musicians as Samuel Scheidt and 
Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau, the teacher of Handel, carried much distinc- 
tion. Friedemann's basic salary was more than twice his honorarium at 
Dresden, 1 and in addition he could hope for a larger income from Acciden- 
tien. The position gave him much greater responsibilities; for he served not 
only as organist, but as conductor of the concerted music played on high 
feast-days and every third Sunday at the Liebfrauenkirchej and.*as com- 
poser of many of the works to be performed. He held the title of Director 
Musices, as his father did at Leipzig, having at his disposal a large choir 
and a sizeable group of instrumentalists recruited from the town musicians 
and the Collegium Musicum. 

If Friedemann, on leaving Dresden, had wanted a complete change of 
atmosphere, he certainly got it in Halle. Here was no glamorous court life, 
no display of luxury, no opera, and only isolated theatrical performances 
when King Friedrich overrode the objections of certain citizens. Halle 
had for the past fifty years been the centre of pietism, which, with its 
insistence on an ascetic life preparing for the hereafter, frowned on any- 
thing savouring of sensuous pleasure. Women were expected to be clad 
with nun-like simplicity; dancing and smoking were considered frivoli- 
ties, and music was suffered only as a means of 'inspiring and refreshing 
the congregation in worship' (as it reads in Friedemann's contract). When 
the new Director Musices came to Halle, pietism had lost much of its 
original fervour and appeal. The leadership had passed from the great 
humanitarian, August Hermann Francke, unforgettable in Halle as the 
creator of large-scale charitable and educational institutions, which still 
exist to-day, 2 to his son, Gotthilf August, a domineering, narrow- 

1 The basic salary of 181 th. 12 gr. had not seemed adequate to his father in 1714, but 
Sebastian had to provide for wife and children at that time, while Friedemann was still 
a bachelor. 

2 Francke founded a school for poor children, an orphanage, a boarding school, and 
a Latin day school for paying students; later he added a mission institute for the East Indies. 
All these institutes, where girls also were taught, were united in a kind of school town with 
its own farm, clinic, book store, and dispensary. The production of certain medicines 
provided an important income for the various charitable institutions. 


minded theologian whose outlook was typical of the gradual petrification 
taking place in the pietistic doctrines. It was bad luck for Friedemann that 
the younger Francke was archidiaconus of his church, 1 a superior lacking 
a real understanding of music. He and his colleagues were certainly not 
pleasant to work with. At Halle no musician could dare to behave with 
anything but exemplary propriety. Nothing was overlooked or ever for- 
gotten by the church authorities. Even minor breaches of regulations 
were sharply reprimanded and a real offence brought instant dismissal. 2 

After living for 13 years in Dresden, it cannot have been easy for 
Friedemann to adapt himself to such diametrically opposed conditions. It 
is true that he had always been an outsider in the Saxon capital; but even 
as such he had absorbed enough of its easy-going, sensuous atmosphere 
to deviate from some of the strict standards on which he had been brought 
up. Now he was transplanted to a circle where the pleasures of life were 
regarded with suspicion, where a sober, austere mode of living was a 
matter of course. Had young Friedemann gone straight from Leipzig to 
Halle, he might have become a sincere pietist; but the man of 36, familiar 
with an entirely different philosophy of life, found such reorientation 
difficult indeed. Sometimes he may have come perilously near to sharing 
the opinion of his sovereign, Friedrich 'the Great,' who derided the Halle 
pietists as 'Protestant Jesuits and Pharisees.' Yet, a son of Sebastian Bach, 
so close to his father, must have possessed a great capacity for a genuine 
religious life, and Friedemann might eventually have achieved a real 
acceptance of the pietistic doctrine, had there not been a disturbing 
influence from another quarter. 

On its foundation in 1693 the University of Halle, one of the most 
distinguished Protestant institutions of learning in Germany, mainly 
served the cause of pietism. However, its harmonious atmosphere was 
rudely shaken when the philosopher and mathematician, Christian Wolff, 
the foremost German exponent of the new trend of Aufklarung (enlighten- 
ment), started his lectures in 1707. In his system there was no place for the 
religious impulses and mystical experiences so dear to pietists, nor did he 
see in this world a vale of tears. Wolff based his philosophy on the sound 
working of human reason, and following his great model, Leibniz (cf. 
p. 85), he proved that the world we lived in was the best of all possible 
worlds. His system, with its emphasis on empirical methods of research, 
had dangerous implications for pietism, and indeed for all denominations, 
and was likely ultimately to lead to scepticism and atheism (though Wolff 

1 He died in 1769, one year before Friedemann left Halle. 

2 This happened to Friedemann's colleague, Cantor Mittag. 

W. FRIEDEMANN IN HALLE (1746-1770) 309 

himself was a very religious man). He was therefore viciously attacked by 
the Church, and when he dared even to prove in a lecture on Confucius 
that morals were independent of theology, his enemies succeeded in en- 
forcing in 1723 his expulsion from Halle. But they could not stop the 
triumphant progress of his doctrine, which was just what the young minds 
needed, and when Friedrich 'the Great' ascended the throne in 1740, one 
of his first acts was~to recall^ Wolff to Halle. By the time Friedemann settled 
down in his new appointment, Wolff had gained an unassailable position, 
and his pupils were successfully applying the new rationalistic method in 
all fields of knowledge. Of particular importance for Halle was Johann 
Salomo Semler, who started the historical-critical interpretation of Biblical 

Naturally the new Director Musices (after being introduced into uni- 
versity circles by his friend, the publisher, J. J. Gebauer), could not over- 
look the two controversial trends which dominated Halle's intellectual and 
religious life. Tossed between the Scylla of rationalism and the Charybdis 
of pietism, Friedemann had not the strength to preserve the profound 
Christian faith in which he had been brought up. This is clearly revealed 
in his compositions written for the church, which are not on the same level 
as his instrumental music and lack real religious fervour. It was Friede- 
mann's tragic fate that in Halle once again he did not become part of a 
leading faction, and yet, on the other hand, he was not strong enough to 
enjoy such splendid isolation. This may have been one of the reasons for 
his unhappiness there and his eventual breakdown. 

The first years were quite pleasant, though; while Sebastian was alive, 
his very existence gave the son support. In the spring of 1747 the two 
travelled together to Berlin and Potsdam to pay a visit to the King; a 
great experience of which Friedemann loved to relate in later years. In 
1750 he made the same trip again, but under what sad conditions! Sebas- 
tian had died, and Friedemann, after administering his father's affairs in 
Leipzig, took his half-brother, Johann Christian, to Emanuel, who had 
offered Christian a home. Shaken by the irreparable loss, Friedemann 
stayed in Berlin much longer than he had intended, and on his return to 
Halle he had to face public reprimand by the authorities. This was not his 
first trouble with the Board; for a few months earlier he had been 
threatened with dismissal for having, contrary to regulation, lent the 
church's drums to the Collegium Musicum. But Friedemann somehow 
managed to calm his superiors, and for several years no complaints are 

Doubly aware of his solitude now that visits to his father were no 


longer possible, Friedemann decided, at the age of 41, to marry the 
daughter of an excise official with whom he had resided since his arrival 
in Halle. The choice was a sensible one as the bride had some means of her 
own, and it looked as though the artist were now embarking on a life 
along traditional lines. Three children were born, for whom the father 
provided high-ranking godparents, such as the Dresden court-marshal, 
and the Princes of Anhalt-Cothen. However, only one daughter, Friede- 
rica Sophia, born 1757, survived infancy, and in the long run marriage 
did not cure Friedemann of his restlessness and dissatisfaction. He tried 
several times to get a position elsewhere; in 1753 he applied for an 
organist's post at Zittau; in 1758 for similar work at Frankfurt, and his 
repeated absences, for which the Halle authorities reproached their music 
director, were probably connected with other unsuccessful attempts in 
this direction. Ten years after his arrival in Halle, the city became a most 
unpleasant place to live in. War broke out between Prussia, assisted by 
England and a few small North German states on the one side, and Austria 
Russia, France, Saxony and various other German states on the other; a 
struggle that was carried on through seven years. From the outset it was 
realized that Halle could not be defended, and so it was declared an open 
city. Again and again one of the various enemy armies quartered itself in 
the unfortunate town, using up all its resources and with threats of 
complete devastation through fire enforcing the payments of outrageous 
ransoms. All the citizens had to contribute to these payments, but even 
so it seems amazing how the population of 13,000 could manage to satisfy 
the various occupying troops, which in the year 1760, for instance, in- 
sisted on receiving 301,747 dialers and extensive deliveries in kind. This 
state of things went on for years with hardly any intermission. Work of 
every kind almost came to a standstill, the cattle succumbed to plagues, 
there was a scarcity of every foodstuff, and the inhabitants' nerves were 
strained to breaking point. Friedemann suffered like the rest, and although 
he was not a citizen he was taxed for contributions to the enemy because 
of the property belonging to his wife. This he felt to be unfair and he 
decided to appeal to the Church Board. It cannot be said that he chose a 
propitious moment for this step. On October 20, 1761, only a few days 
after the purely military danger seemed to be overcome for the moment 
through the arrival of Prussian troops in the vicinity, he wrote his peti- 
tion. Oblivious to the fact that the war was not yet over, that the city had 
in the last, worst year, lost literally all its resources, and that the church 
treasury was depleted, he not only asked for exemption from tax, claiming 
it had been granted to other church servants, but continued with this 


request: 'I venture at the same time submissively to ask your Honours for 
an increase in my salary. When I started work, the late chairman, Mr. 
Schafer, assured me in the name of A Most Noble Church Council that he 
would see to such increase, should the conditions of the church improve. 
This assurance given me 15 years ago, and the present very hard times, 
with prices rising daily, induce me to appeal now to my Most Noble and 
Honoured patrons.' It was certainly true that Friedemann suffered from 
the catastrophic economic conditions prevailing in Halle, but it seems 
hardly credible that with the events of the past years in mind he could 
have ventured to request the increase which had been promised to him in 
the event of improved conditions. Indeed the letter reveals a degree of self- 
absorption and an inability to foresee the other person's reaction which 
clearly explains why the various attempts to secure a position, which 
Friedemann undertook after his father's death (and therefore without his 
support and advice), turned out to be failures. No wonder this letter did 
not produce the hoped-for result. The church elders, who had gone 
through such harassing times and as yet did not know how to save the 
town from bankruptcy, were outraged and did not hide their feelings. 
They curtly answered that the allotment to him of a share in the payments 
to the enemy was justified, as he was enjoying the protection resulting 
from such payments, and incidentally was taxed less than the meanest 
craftsman. As to the salary-increase, they did not see any reason whatso- 
ever for it in view of 'his frequently improper behaviour and his lack of 
submission to the Church Board as, despite the reprimand given him in 
pleno Collegii, he had absented himself repeatedly without special per- 
mission.' Finally he was advised henceforth to show greater subordination 
so as not to force the Board to take further steps. It should be emphasized 
that Friedemann's 'improper behaviour' could certainly not have been 
anything of the kind implied by this expression in our time. Loose morals 
or dissolute habits would not have been tolerated by the Council for even 
a short period, and in 1761 Friedemann had been in office for 15 years! 
The Council had indeed to exert its memory to prove its point, for the 
reprimand referred to had been delivered eleven years before, when 
Friedemann had overstayed his leave after the death of his father! 

The effect of this most outspoken letter on the organist, who felt he 
had given excellent service to Halle, can well be imagined. It must have 
been a true relief to him when one year later he got a most tempting offer. 
He was invited to succeed Christoph Graupner, at one time Sebastian's 
rival for the Thomas Cantorate (cf. p. 166), as conductor to the court of 
Darmstadt. The position was a highly important one carrying a salary of 


900 fl. as well as contributions in kind; indeed, it was so good that 
Graupner had seen fit to decline the position at Leipzig for its sake. For 
Friedemann it must have seemed like the fulfilment of his greatest wishes; 
at Darmstadt he could start a new life, devote himself to instrumental 
music, and at last reap the rewards that he felt to be his due. Friedemann 
accepted and was urged to get started on the removal of his belongings, 
for which 100 fl. were offered to him. But the musician, 52 years old, did 
not like to be rushed. In the ensuing correspondence he insisted on 
receiving the official decree first, and with characteristic stubbornness he 
did not refrain from this request even when Darmstadt made it clear that 
the document would be handed to him on his arrival. What happened 
after that is rather obscure, as Friedemann's own letters have not been 
preserved; but it may be surmised that his hesitant manner of carrying on 
the negotiations and his lack of pliability made a bad impression. Anyway, 
he eventually got the coveted title, but not the position. The darkness 
veiling this chapter of Friedemann's history, which might have become 
a turning-point in his career, also shrouds the next fatal step he took. On 
May 12, 1764, he resigned his position at Halle, stopping work instantly, 
and not even appearing for the checking of the instruments entrusted to 
his care. No dispute has been recorded which might have provoked so 
sudden a decision; moreover Friedemann had no other position in 
prospect on which to fall back, though he may have hoped for a chance 
at Fulda. Apparently the resentment and disappointment engendered in 
Friedemann's mind for 18 years just had to find an outlet, and the artist 
felt irresistibly drawn to washing his hands of his ungracious and narrow- 
minded superiors, and to showing them that he did not depend on their 
favour. The satisfaction he derived from this act of defiance must have 
been great indeed, but so was the price he and his dependants had to pay 
for it. 

Through six more years he stayed on in Halle, getting some help from 
his friend, the publisher Gebauer, and working as a music teacher. Some 
of his pupils in Halle were highly successful. Among them his kinsman, 
Johann Christian Bach (1743- 18 14), known as the 'Clavier-Bach,' should 
be mentioned. He was the son of Michael Bach, Cantor of St. Ulrich in 
Halle, and probably a nephew of the Meiningen court conductor, Johann 
Ludwig Bach. The relative received various gifts of manuscripts from his 
teacher, among them Sebastian's Clavierbiichlein written for young Friede- 
mann. Another pupil was Friedrich Wilhelm Rust, whose grandson, 
Wilhelm Rust, was to become one of the foremost editors of the Bach- 
Gesellschaft y and to the elder Rust the generous teacher gave the autograph 

w. friedemann's last years (1770-1784) 313 

of Sebastian's French Suites. Johann Samuel Petri also proudly claims in 
his Anleitung %ur praktischen Musih that he enjoyed 'the Halle Bach's 
friendship and instruction.' 

In 1767 Friedemann tried to win the favour of Maria Antonia, Electress 
of Saxony, by dedicating to her his Clavier Concerto in e. In the accom- 
panying letter he reminded the Princess that he had heard her singing in 
Dresden when he had brought his pupil, Goldberg, to perform for her. 1 
We hope that the Electress rewarded him — a fact that cannot be checked, 
as the Princess' private accounts of this period have not been preserved — 
but nothing else resulted from this attempt, as Maria Antonia, a fertile 
composer herself, cared only for the Italian style in music. 

In August 1770 Friedemann decided to leave Halle for good, and his 
wife's property was put up for auction. At the age of 60 he started a 
wandering life, following the chance of an appointment here or there, but 
never achieving tangible results. Wherever he appeared people were 
fascinated by his organ playing, and received him at first with enthusiasm 
and reverence; yet they did not desire to engage him. He was too old, too 
eccentric (for how else could one regard a man who had thrown away a 
perfectly satisfactory position without having secured another?), and too 
famous to fit into a regular routine job which a modest young man would 
fill so much more satisfactorily. Thus Friedemann failed in the city of 
Braunschweig — not the first Bach, incidentally, to live there, as a kins- 
man, Johann Stephan Bach, had served from 1689-1718 as a Dom- 
Cantor — and a visit to Gottingen, where his great admirer, Johann 
Nikolaus Forkel, worked as University organist, did not bring success 
either. The composer made a precarious living through organ recitals, 
teaching, writing works for special occasions, and, at times, selling manu- 
scripts of his father's, always hoping that he would yet find a permanent 
position. In 1774 Berlin seemed to offer him such a chance, and in one of 
his sudden decisions — so characteristic of Friedemann in his old age — he 
rushed from Braunschweig without even taking time to provide in an 
orderly fashion for the most valuable property he owned, the bulk of the 
autographs of his father's works. He just left them with his friend, 
Professor Eschenburg, to be auctioned, and did not even bother to make a 
list of his possessions. Apparently the matter slipped his mind altogether, 

1 Maria Antonia, a Bavarian princess, entered Dresden as a bride in 1748, two years 
after Friedemann left the town. She may have come for a visit previously, and on that 
occasion received Goldberg and Bach; or else Friedemann may have visited Dresden from 
Halle. In the dedication he mentions Count Keyserlingk as Russian ambassador to Saxony, 
so the visit would have occurred between 1749 an< ^ *75 2 > when the Count was again 
attached to the Dresden court after leaving it in 1745. 


and he only took it up again four years later, when his finances were 
running low. 1 Eschenburg's answer is not preserved and so we do not 
know what happened to Friedemann's priceless collection. 

Berlin at first fell under the spell of the artist, and his superb organ 
recitals received enthusiastic praise. A reviewer in the Berlinische Nach- 
richten exclaimed: 'Everything that intoxicates the emotions, novelty of 
ideas, amazing development, dissonances dying away in a harmony like 
Graun's, force, delicacy, were united under the fingers of this master to 
convey joy and grief. Would it have been possible not to recognize the 
worthy son of a Sebastian?' Berlin's high-ranking music-lovers received 
him with open arms, especially as the King's sister, the artistic Princess 
Anna Amalia, who had appointed his brother, Emanuel, conductor to her 
court, and was besides a great admirer of Sebastian's style, showed him 
many favours. Friedemann, to express 'his most ardent feelings of grati- 
tude,' dedicated 8 Fugues to her in 1778 and apparently cherished hopes 
of a court appointment. But, as so often in late years, he had been too 
sanguine, and before long the whole edifice of his plans crashed down on 
him. The Princess' conductor, Johann Philipp Kirnberger, a pupil of 
Sebastian Bach, had, out of reverent gratitude for Friedemann's father, 
greatly befriended the newcomer, and introduced him to influential 
people. Now Friedemann somehow deluded himself that the Princess 
might dismiss Kirnberger for his sake, and started an intrigue at court 
against his protector; but the result was that the weapon prepared against 
Kirnberger turned against himself, and he lost the patronage of the 
Princess as well as Kirnberger's support. Other distinguished supporters 
also were disappointed when they found the musician unwilling to exhibit 
his unique art of improvisation, for the sake of which they had invited him 
to their homes. If the atmosphere seemed uncongenial to him, he curtly 
refused to play, and thus earned the reputation of haughtiness and 
eccentricity. But when he met with genuine understanding, as in the case 
of the composer Carl Friedrich Zelter, the friend of Goethe, he would 
play for hours to his entranced audience. Teaching would still have pro- 
cured him a modest income, had he not grown increasingly impatient with 
untalented pupils, and even refused to accept them, regardless of their 
wealth and position. Again he made exceptions in the case of genuine 

1 From this letter dated July 4, 1778, we also learn that Friedemann left at Braun- 
schweig books that had belonged to his father, and of these also no trace has been dis- 
covered. This is the more regrettable, for Sebastian's library would have offered important 
clues as to his general interests. In the inventory of his estate only a rich supply of theo- 
logical books is mentioned, which were listed for sale as apparendy neither Friedemann 
nor Emanuel cared to take them. 

w. friedemann's last years (1770-1784) 315 

musicianship, and he instructed, for instance, up to his death the highly- 
gifted Sara Itzig, a great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, 1 who acquired an 
extensive collection of Friedemann's later compositions together with 
those of his brother, Emanuel. Some help came from the family of Count 
Keyserlingk, 2 thus continuing the tradition established through the writing 
of Sebastian's 'Goldberg Variations,' but such irregular support together 
with the small annuity Friedemann's wife still received from Halle 3 
could bring only temporary relief. It was in such desperate straits that the 
old musician committed those acts of artistic dishonesty which posterity 
still holds against him: he claimed the authorship of an organ concerto 
which was really his father's arrangement of a Vivaldi violin concerto 
(cf. p. 246), a falsification to be cleared up only in 191 1, although Zelter 
had already guessed the truth in his correspondence with Goethe. On the 
other hand, when it became clear to Friedemann that the market for 
Sebastian's music was better than for his own works, he erased the name 
on two of his compositions replacing it with that of his father. 

For ten years Friedemann lived in Berlin, fighting a tragic struggle 
against poverty and increasing illness; again and again spoiling the few 
chances that still came his way by his fits of temper, his intransigence, and 
his increasing aversion from effort of any kind. Friedemann had not been 
born with any of his father's fighting spirit, and gradually he learned to 
substitute flights into the world of imagination for action. The constant 
failure of his hopes for an appointment and the lack of appreciation for 
his own compositions forced him more and more into a world of his own, 
and when he died in 1784 at the age of 74,* only one newspaper in Berlin 
reported the event, exclaiming that 'Germany had lost its foremost organ 
player, and the musical world a man whose loss was irreplaceable.' 

The lot of Friedemann's widow was a sad one. At first she seems to 
have received some support from music friends, for it is known that part 
of the proceeds from a performance of Handel's 'Messiah' in 1785 were 
allotted to her. Gradually, however, her existence was forgotten, and when 
she died in 1791 she was given, like Anna Magdalena Bach, a pauper's 
funeral. Their only surviving daughter, Friederica Sophia, did not keep 
up the rigid moral standard to which the Bachs had for centuries adhered; 

1 Bitter, Falck and Miesner erroneously describe her as Felix Mendelssohn's grand- 

2 Cf. Miesner in BJ, 1934. 
8 Cf. Miesner in BJ, 1932. 

* His long life best disproves Reichardt's reports about Friedemann's excessive 
drinking habits which, incidentally, are not referred to in any other contemporary source 
of information. 


for when in 1793, at ^ e a g e °f 3 6, sne married a musketeer in an infantry 
regiment, the ceremony took place five days after the birth of a daughter 
to the couple. The church-register also reports the birth of another 
daughter in 1797, but as the father had the very common name of Johann 
Schmidt, it proved impossible for research scholars to follow up the fate 
of these two great-granddaughters of Sebastian Bach. 

The story of Friedemann, this truly gifted but tragically failing 
artist, has always exercised a fascination on writers of fiction. He was the 
hero of a highly romantic best-selling novel in the 19th century, and again 
more recently of a German film. Friedemann is certainly the most enig- 
matic of Sebastian's sons, and for some of his decisive actions it has — in 
the absence of clear evidence — been impossible to find a real clue. Yet 
the little we know about him is sufficient to show us a man so utterly 
absorbed in his own self that he was unable to estimate and gauge the re- 
actions of other people. It is significant that the only two positions he 
obtained were won during his father's lifetime; when Sebastian's counsel 
and help were no longer at the son's disposal, Friedemann was singularly 
unsuccessful in whatever he attempted. He did not learn from his failures; 
they threw him into a deep depression which was suddenly succeeded by 
a bout of unfounded optimism 1 leading him to highly irresponsible 
actions. Looking back over Friedemann's life as a whole, we cannot help 
seeing in the great love and support which Sebastian unstintingly offered 
to his eldest son, a fatal gift. It atrophied Friedemann's initiative and it also 
reduced his artistic independence. 


Twenty-five years separated Friedemann from his father. He belonged 
to a younger generation which passionately desired to overcome the past 
and speak its own artistic language. Loyalty to Sebastian struggled in his 
heart against loyalty to his own time. As a result his music displayed a 
mixture of conservative and progressive elements. In his vocal composi- 
tions he used with equal success strict and free polyphony as well as 
completely homophonic forms. Nevertheless his attempts to develop 

1 My friend, Dr. Leo Hess, Boston, kindly pointed out that Friedemann's extremely 
beautiful, sensitive hands, shown on the well-known portrait in the City Museum of 
Halle, classify him as a personality disposed to emotional depressions and periodic fits of 


further the language of Sebastian's church cantatas show little originality. 
Friedemann was far greater in his instrumental music. Here he adopted a 
style that was basically homophonic, though adorned with frequent 
imitations. He rarely used more than one subject in a movement, but 
like his brothers he was fond of changes in expression and sudden sur- 
prises. The static rigidity of mood in Baroque compositions was replaced 
in Friedemann's works by the sudden contrasts peculiar to the age of 

Yet so much of Sebastian's influence remained that the son's composi- 
tions were regarded by his contemporaries as old-fashioned and complex. 
The artist did not meet with the success which he felt he deserved. Frus- 
tration reduced the volume of his creative output and made him indulge 
more and more in a musical language that went far beyond the fashionable 
sensibility. The optimistic compositions of his early manhood already 
show a subjective and strongly emotional character; and as the composer 
grew older, this tendency increased. His later works display passion and 
grief, and then again, in some slow movements, a fervour and depth of 
feeling which few composers expressed in his time. 

The inability of the ageing Friedemann to fit into any established 
pattern of life, his lack of social graces, his opposition to composing or 
even improvising 'on order,' and, on the other hand, the comparatively 
small number of works he wrote, among which compositions for the 
clavier play so important a part: all this could be better understood in an 
artist living sixty or even a hundred years later. Friedemann is the dis- 
appointed Romanticist among the sons of Sebastian, a man who seemed 
old-fashioned to his contemporaries, whereas in many respects he was far 
ahead of his time. 

In spite of the impossibility of establishing exact dates of composition 
for most of Friedemann's works, the main periods of his artistic develop- 
ment are easily traceable. Only a few works from Friedemann's youth 
(1710-33) have been preserved. They are either in a superficial Rococo 
style which sounds strangely unsatisfactory when handled by Friedemann, 
or they follow closely the model of the greatest music teacher of the 
century. The period of maturity embraced the two long stays in Dresden 
and Halle (1733-70). At first Friedemann devoted all his energies to 
instrumental composition (Dresden, 1733-46), and only while living in 
Halle (1746-70) did he concentrate on a vocal output, which consisted 
almost exclusively of church cantatas. There is also a significant contrast 
in mood between the works of the Dresden and the Halle period. The 
compositions Friedemann wrote in his earlier years show a powerful, 


affirmative spirit and are predominantly in the major mode. For the 
organist in pietistic Halle and especially for the man who stayed afterwards 
in the same city without a job, life had lost much of this brightness and 
lustre. The compositions then created frequently display a passionate 
yearning and a tragic unrest, for which the minor mode is more often used 
than before. The last period (1771-84), which Friedemann spent in 
Braunschweig and Berlin without a permanent occupation, shows a 
marked decrease in the volume of his output, and not infrequently a 
decline in the quality of the works written. Both the retrospective and the 
romantic elements are now more strongly emphasized. The composer of 
70 who so far had never had any connection with the stage, now worked 
on an opera, 1 but to the same period belong the fine little clavier fugues 
which he dedicated to Princess Amalia of Prussia. 

The bonds linking Friedemann with the past are most evident in his 
compositions for the organ. Forkel writes in his biography of Johann Sebas- 
tian: 2 'When I heard Wilhelm Friedemann ... on the organ, I was seized 
with reverential awe . . . here all was great and solemn,' and Daniel 
Schubart 3 considered Friedemann's achievements as an organ virtuoso not 
only as equal but almost as superior to those of his father. Such enthusi- 
astic reports are apt to arouse the highest anticipations for Friedemann's 
compositions for the king of instruments, but actually he seems to have 
improvised rather than written down. The number of his original com- 
positions known to-day is pitifully small, even if we include the clavier 
fugues which might have been intended for the keyboard of the organ. 
There are seven chorale preludes (^38/1) consisting mostly of a succession 
of brief fugatos on the individual chorale lines and ending with an 
extended pedal point, a form going back to Johann Christoph Bach and 
Pachelbel. Friedemann's arrangements to some extent combine the 
melodic material of the different hymn sections thus giving greater 
cohesion to the individual preludes. Nevertheless these little compositions 
are of minor significance and cannot stand comparison with the chorale 
preludes of Sebastian's maturity. 

Of greater importance are two fugues with a pedal part, the solid 
yet old-fashioned Fugue in g (F 37), and the great triple Fugue in 
F (F 36). This latter work, which was written in Halle, is a well built 
and powerful composition; it cleverly manipulates its extended theme, 

1 Cf. C. M. Pliimicke, 'Entwurf einer Theatergeschichte von Berlin,' Berlin, 1781, 
p. 338. Friedemann's music seems to be lost. 

2 I.e., chapter IV. 

3 'Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst,' Vienna, 1806, p. 89. 


subdividing it and presenting the sections not only in succession but also 
simultaneously. 1 

The eight three-part fugues (^31) which Friedemann composed in 
Berlin, and dedicated in February 1778 to the music-loving Princess 
Amalia of Prussia, may also be considered as works for organ, al- 
though they have no pedal part. These are short, pleasant and uncompli- 
cated compositions of no great technical difficulty, but with numerous 
attractive features, such as the gay and rhythmically unconventional 
subject of No. 1 in C, or the merry gigue-like character of No. 5 in e. In 
this age of sensibility, which witnessed a general decline of contrapuntal 
forms, only a few composers were able to handle the fugue form with such 
complete ease. Friedemann's model for this little cycle was obviously a 
work of his father's. The prevalent systematic order of the fugues (No. 1 
in C, No. 2 in c, No. 3 in D, No. 4 in d, etc.) is similar to that used in 
Sebastian's Three-part Inventions, and if any doubt should remain in this 
respect, it will be dissolved by a closer inspection of the subject in Friede- 
mann's fugue in f (No. 8), which is obviously fashioned after the begin- 
ning of Sebastian's sinfonia in the same key {Ex. 68). Not only the 

J. S. Bach 

~W.TriedemaTvn. Sacft 

p w 


j iJ 




chromatically descending theme (a favourite with Baroque composers) but 
even the counterpoint accompanying it are those used by the father. The 

1 The Fugue in C (F 35) is an incomplete fragment, the Fugue in c with a pedal part 
(not contained in Falck, but printed in W. F. Bach's 'Complete Works for Organ,' edited 
by Power Biggs and George Weston, New York, 1947) of doubtful authenticity. It has 
also been attributed to Johann Christoph Friedrich, and even to Johann Christian Bach. 
It is interesting to note that this composition employs in rather thin disguise the same 
subject that Sebastian had borrowed from Corelli's Triosonata op. 3/4 for his own four- 
part organ Fugue in b. This Fugue in c may have been a study one of the Bach sons did 
under the watchful eye of the father (cf. Geiringer, 'Artistic Interrelations of the Bachs/ 
MQ, 1950). 


separate Fugue in c (F 32) based on a theme resembling the Fac utportem 
from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, is not quite on the same level as these 
clever and inspired compositions. The Fugue in c is a vigorous work, but 
formalistic in its polyphonic treatment and clearly showing a leaning 
towards a more homophonic style. 1 

More than two dozen compositions for clavier (harpsichord, clavichord, 
spinet or fortepiano) are known. To the composer's First Period of crea- 
tive activity belongs a little characterpiece, in the style of Couperin, called 
La Reveille (F 27), a brief Gigue in G (F 28), and a Bourleska {F 26), 
which Friedemann's brother, Friedrich, named U Imitation de la Chasse. 
The latter is a gay and rather superficial composition in the style of Gott- 
lieb Muffat, making ample use of the then fashionable device of crossing 
hands. The most significant work from this period of preparation is the 
little Suite in g {F 24). The choice of the form and the rather heavy poly- 
phony of the Allemande point back to the Baroque period. Friedemann 
also availed himself of features employed in his father's Partitas. The 
partly French, partly Italian style of the Courante as well as the un- 
conventional order of dances (a Bourree and two trios after the Gigue) 
point to this source. The spirit of a younger generation can be felt in the 
Gigue with its sudden changes from major to minor and back to major, 
and its droll rhythmic effects. 

The Concerto per il Cembalo solo in G (-F40) is probably also a product 
of Friedemann's youth. This work imitates a keyboard arrangement of 
a concerto grosso and may possibly have been inspired by some of 
the preludes to Sebastian's English Suites. The initial 'Allegro non 

Ex.69 Allegro non troppo 

(Tutti) I u 

troppo' starts and also ends with a powerful tutti section, furnishing 
material for the rest of the movement. Friedemann implies the use of an 

1 The clavier Fugue in B flat (F 34) is, as George B. Weston pointed out to the present 
author, an arrangement of the fugue in Handel's overture to 'Esther.' The little clavier 
Fugue in F (F 33) is an insignificant work dating from Friedemann's early youth. 

xiv. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Drawing by P. Guile 

„^e€r4t>- s, r^.„^i„ tX.-tbtr i x,*t 

-*'1- r %4:^' J ^ r 

:.w\*o, r^rT 

ffTtiJ As 

^iOXf^^v'L jj<rsvh r - ®§^ 


: ^m± * ' >rr ~ ] ^\ 

J! a 

xv. First page of autograph of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's unfinished Clavier 

Concerto in E fiat 


imaginary concertino of two violins and a 'cello by moving the bass into 
closer proximity to the upper parts (Ex. 69). The middle movement is 
given exclusively to this trio. It is an Andante in e of great simplicity and 
haunting beauty. Apparently it was a favourite of Friedemann's, who 
used it twice afterwards in compositions of his last years. 1 The finale is 
crisp and gay with amusing rhythmic effects. 

Friedemann's artistic personality appears fully developed in the clavier 
compositions from his second period. To the beginning of the Dresden 
years belongs the Concerto a duoi Cembali Concertati (F 10; in modern 
editions called 'Sonata' for two claviers), a work which pleased father 
Bach so well that he personally copied it in parts. The result was that in 
the 19th century doubts arose as to its real author. The first man to 
recognize the truth was Johannes Brahms, who edited the 'Concerto' in 
1864 at Rieder-Biedermann's as a composition of Friedemann; neverthe- 
less it slipped thirty years later into the monumental edition of the Bach 
Gesellschaft as a 'hitherto unprinted' composition of Johann Sebastian. 2 
The style of the composition as well as the appearance of the two manu- 
scripts establishes beyond any doubt that in this case the father actually 
copied a work of the son, and that this is not a second case of an 'Organ 
Concerto by Friedemann Bach' (cf. p. 246). The expression 'Concerto' 
used by Friedemann for his work is only justified by the last movement. 
This brilliant and gay finale has the character of a solo concerto with 
orchestral accompaniment, arranged in the traditional way for two claviers. 
It has, basically, the same rondo-like alternation between tutti and solo 
episodes that Sebastian used in his Concerto in the Italian Taste. Quite 
different are the two preceding movements. The first is in almost fully 
developed sonata form, starting with the syncopated main theme that was 
a favourite of Friedemann's (Ex. 70), following up with a clearly differen- 


tiated second subject, and introducing a substantial development. The 
recapitulation is incomplete; nevertheless this composition by young 
Friedemann is, from a formal point of view, as progressive as anything he 
has written. Similar in character, though shorter and simpler, is the slow 
middle movement. The entire 'Concerto' is predominantly homophonic 

1 In his wedding song Her%, mein Heri and in one of his fantasias in c of 1784. 

2 Vol. XLIII, pp. xv and 47. 



and the regular imitations in the second clavier became accompanying 
figures imbued with thematic meaning. 

Seven Sonatas for a single clavier belong in all likelihood to the 
Dresden period. In 1745 the composer made a bid for popular acclaim by 
publishing the Sonata in D (F 3) as the first of a planned series of 6 
sonatas. 1 Unfortunately the author's expectations were not fulfilled. The 
Sonata had so little success that the series was discontinued. Only the 
Sonata in E flat (F 5) was published separately in 1748; the other four 
works of the set (in F, G, A and B flat; F 6-9) and a related Sonata in C 
(F 1), all of them probably written in or before 1744, remained in manu- 
script during the composer's lifetime. 

Each of these seven sonatas is in three movements, with the traditional 
succession of tempi: slow-fast-slow. However, in the Sonata in C the 
middle movement is only ten measures long, and in the Sonata in F, which 
the composer revised twice, it eventually shrank to a mere four bars. 
Friedemann's liking for compact constructions is also expressed in the 
Sonata in D, in which the same concluding motive recurs at the end of each 
of the three movements, thus producing a kind of cyclic form. The com- 
poser does not show preference for any of the numerous formal varieties 
the time offers. There are movements in one-, two- and three-part con- 
structions, the latter occasionally using two clearly separated subjects. 

Similarly indecisive is Friedemann's attitude with regard to other 
stylistic idioms. There is no lack of retrospective features which show the 
composer's links with the art of the past. In the Largo of the Sonata in E 
flat with its homogeneous one-part construction, and in the Adagio of 
the Sonata in D with its polyphonic imitations, the spirit of the Thomas 
Cantor may be detected. Italian influences, which were particularly strong 
at the court of Dresden, manifest themselves in the chords accompanying 
the theme in the first and last movements of the Sonata in E flat, and in the 
brilliant passages divided between the two hands in the finale of the Sonata 
in B flat. At the same time these sonatas exhibit the vocabulary of the age 
of sensibility. Their language is often nervous, filled with sudden con- 
trasts and surprising changes. In the first movement of the Sonata in G, 
and in the finale of the Sonata in B flat, repeated alterations in tempo occur, 
imbuing these movements with a highly subjective character. The 
dramatic, and often very humorous effects which the composer achieves 
through the use of rests can be shown by the finales of the Sonatas in E flat 
and G {Ex. 71). Great variety of mood is also to be found in the individual 

1 The title-page states that copies may be bought from the composer in Dresden, his 
father in Leipzig, and his brother (Emanuel) in Berlin. 


movements. There is the serene first movement of the Sonata in C, and 
the gay finale of the Sonata in A; but Friedemann seems even more in his 

own element in the 'Lament' of the Sonata in G, or in the plaintive dirge 
in the first movement of this work (Ex. 72). 

Zx7S Andantino 

Friedemann's Fantasias, written in Dresden, are different in character 
from the dramatic scenes Emanuel offers under the same name. The works 
of the elder brother rarely contain recitative-like passages, and it would be 
difficult to imagine words or any kind of programme connected with 
them. They are purely expressions of the composer's feeling, while 
Emanuel, inspired by the opera of his time, prefers music that lends itself 
to poetical and often quite rationalistic interpretation. Some of Friede- 
mann's fantasias lean more in the direction of the toccata, with runs and 
broken chords ; others seem like an individual movement in a sonata, or 
like a combination of different musical sections, contrasting in time and 
tempo; but the majority have the logical and well-balanced construction 
which is characteristic of the works of the mature Friedemann. 

The Fantasia in D (F 17) is an effective piece of not inconsiderable 
technical difficulty, based on swirling runs and broken chords, alternating 


ht , -r , — h 

between the two hands. Eighteenth-century Empfindsamkeit assumes here 
almost the character of 19th-century Romanticism {Ex. 73). Somewhat 


similar, though more loosely constructed, is a Fantasia (F 18) starting in 
d but ending in F. A second Fantasia in d (F19) 1 is subdivided into three 
sections, each of which is again in three-part form. Three musical ideas 
(one of them a fugato) are used throughout the composition. The resulting 
form A B A/B C B/A C A with its interweaving of sections might have 
been studied by Cesar Franck when he conceived his own 'Prelude, 
Chorale and Fugue.' 

Similar to a brief fantasia is the little Preludio in c (F 29), a delicate 
character-piece of simple dignity and beauty. The short March in E flat 
(F 30) ranks among the most attractive and least complicated composi- 
tions of Friedemann. It is characteristic of the composer's personality that 
even here the serene character of the work is interrupted in its middle 
section by a brief outbreak of anguish and fear. 

The number of clavier compositions from the Halle period is not large, 
but it embraces the exquisite 12 Polonaises (F 12) which, according to the 
verdict of Julius Epstein, the distinguished Viennese pianist and friend of 
Brahms, belong 'to the most beautiful clavier compositions of all times.' 
The polonaise was a dance known in Germany since the 17th century. 
Later, the political ties between Poland and Saxony increased the general 
interest in this form, and after 1750 it became highly fashionable. As 
Friedemann wanted to make a new bid for popularity, he announced in 
1 765 s the composition of twelve of these works; but once again the public 
remained indifferent, which greatly added to the composer's feeling of 
frustration. The polonaises, which were not printed until thirty-five years 
after the death of Friedemann Bach, are short compositions in two- or three- 
part form which have mostly shed their original dance character. The 
tempo is usually moderate or slow and the rhythmic picture is often quite 
involved. If it were not for the 3/4 time maintained in all twelve pieces and 
the frequent use of short notes at the beginning of the measures, their 
name would have very little justification. Friedemann presents the 
polonaises in an order of keys similar to that used in the fugues. The series 
starts in C and ends in g, omitting the less familiar keys of C sharp and F 
sharp (both major and minor). No two of these outstanding character- 
pieces are alike. There is the resolute No. 1, the delicate and pensive No. 
2, the youthful fiery No. 3, the tender lament of No. 4, the solemn No. 5 
with its dramatic development, and the deeply felt and fervent No. 6. 
More important, however, than the differences between the various 

1 Riemann's edition, published at Steingraber's, calls it Capriccio. 

2 George B. Weston, of Cambridge, Mass., owns a manuscript of the Polonaises 
dated 1765. 


polonaises are the contrasts within the individual numbers. No. 8 in e, for 
instance, starts with a yearning tune, using the big melodic skips which 
are frequent in Friedemann's compositions. After six measures a brisk and 
turbulent second theme sets in, displaying a mood almost diametrically 
opposed to that of the first subject. Despite the piece's shortness 
(only 24 measures) the work displays the basic features of the sonata 
form: an exposition with two contrasting subjects, a modulating develop- 
ment in which attempts are made to combine elements of the two themes, 
and a recapitulation only slightly modified. In their expressive power these 
tiny masterpieces point far into the future. They are, as Griepenkerl, their 
first editor put it, the 'truest expression of a noble, tender, and strongly 
agitated soul,' and it is not surprising that their importance was first 
realized in the romantic era. 

A second Sonata in D (F 4) dedicated in 1778 or 1779 to Princess 
Amalia of Prussia may belong to the Halle period. The first movement of 
this work employs a musical idiom rather similar to that of the young 
Mozart. The following delicate and dreamy section entitled Grave displays 
a structure of classical simplicity. A playful and saucy Vivace concludes 
this work, which marks not only the end but also, in some respects, the 
culmination of Friedemann's sonata production. 1 

A comparison of Friedemann's two Fantasias in e may well serve to 
illustrate the stylistic differences between his second and third periods of 
composition. The first (F 20), composed in 1770 in Halle, is a noble com- 
position, introducing two basic themes fitted into a solid, rondo-like 
construction. The second Fantasia (F 21) written in Braunschweig or 
Berlin shows an increase in nervous energy combined with a decrease in 
formal coherence. There are many stirring details such as the furious intro- 
duction, the lament in the recitative and the spirited cantilena, but the 
work is lacking in logic and suffers from a tendency to combine ideas 
which are not quite congenial in character. At the same time it is 
interesting to note that this fantasia seems to be intended not for the 
harpsichord, but rather for the modern pianoforte. Some of its accom- 
panying passages will come to full effect only if played on an instrument 
with sustaining pedal. 2 The last two Fantasias, written in 1784, the year of 
Friedemann's death, are both in c (F 1 5 and 16). They incorporate sections 
from earlier works and show a decisive decline in the composer's abilities. 

1 A sonata in C from the same period (F 2) is not of equal importance and has 
remained in manuscript. 

2 Similar observations might be made regarding the Fantasias in C (F 14) and a 
(F 23), both products of Friedemann's third period of composition. 


One of them is a potpourri of no less than 17 mostly unrelated little 

A transition from Friedemann's clavier compositions to his ensemble 
music is provided by the Concertos for Harpsichord and Orchestra. They 
consist of four concertos for one cembalo and strings, and one concerto 
for two cembalos, brass instruments, timpani and strings, to which might 
be added one incomplete concerto of one and a half movements and one 
concerto of doubtful authenticity. ! 

The works are based on the concerto form of the late Baroque period 
with its rondo-like alternations between solo and tutti episodes. Friede- 
mann progresses substantially beyond the style of his father; he enlarges 
both the tutti and the solo sections allowing them at the same time a 
greater amount of independence from each other. His tutti assume a more 
symphonic character and are built out of two, or even three and four 
contrasting ideas, often ending with a powerful unison. The figurations 
of the solo sections lose their mechanical character and are imbued with a 
more subjective emotional life. In Friedemann's concertos the two 
partners, solo instrument and orchestra, confront each other in a manner 
not unlike that of the great 19th-century concertos. 

If the Concerto in g (jF, top of p. 11) really is a composition by 
Friedemann Bach, it can only be the product of his period of apprentice- 
ship. The conservative character of its first movement in which the 
same mood is rigidly preserved from beginning to end, and the in- 
ferior quality of the second and third movements make this appear 
most likely. 

The Concertos in a, 2 D and F as well as the Concerto for two claviers 

1 A seventh concerto in c published under Friedemann's name by Schott, Mainz, is 
the work of Sebastian's pupil, Kirnberger. The Berlin Library owned the parts of two 
concertos (St. 270, 276) which were originally inscribed as W. F. Bach. This was changed 
by an old hand into J. F. C. Bach. Schunemann (BJ, 1914, pp. 127-8) believes that these 
are works by Friedemann. The parts were not available to the present author. 

2 There is strong disagreement regarding the possible date of composition of the 
Concerto in a. The handwriting of the autograph has a scribbled and rather uncertain 
character. This induced George B. Weston, according to information given to the present 
author, to consider the manuscript as a product of Friedemann's old age. Falck (pp. 87 
and 96) on the other hand sees in it a work of the Leipzig period. The present writer feels 
inclined to place the work, for stylistic reasons, in the Dresden period. The composition 
shows great similarity to other concertos, sonatas and symphonies written at that time, and 
the handwriting resembles that of the Concerto in F for 2 claviers. The fact, mentioned by 


in E flat (^45, 41, 44, 46) probably belong to the Dresden period. They 
are imaginative compositions, full of emotional life and expressive power. 
Their style is basically homophonic, but canonic imitations are often used 
to enrich the texture. As a rule five entrances of the main tutti ritornel 
alternate with four solo episodes. The Concerto in a strikes a strange note 
of sadness and even despair. Certain melodic features, transitions and 
modulations in this work as well as in the middle movement in b of the 
Concerto in D induce an atmosphere of clair-obscure, very rare in works 
of this period. 1 

The Concerto in F is possibly the most advanced of these Dresden 
compositions. It is interesting that a theme from the first movement (b. 
31, 32) is again quoted in the last movement (b. 35, 37); once more the 
composer sets out to interweave the individual movements of his com- 
position. — Both the provision of two claviers and the use of brass instru- 
ments in the accompanying orchestra of the Concerto in E flat are unique 
among Friedemann's works of this genre. 2 The reduction of the number 
of tuttis from five to four points to the concertos of the Halle period, while 
the old-fashioned unaccompanied trio style of the middle movement is 
reminiscent of similar pieces by Sebastian. 

More modern in character are the works written in Halle, the first 
movement of the unfinished Concerto in E flat 3 (111. XV) and that in e 
dedicated in 1767 to Maria Antonia, Electress of Saxony (F 42 and 43). 
They show not only the aforementioned reduction in the number of 
tuttis, but altogether a tendency towards greater concentration. Fewer 
ideas are introduced in each movement and they are developed with 
greater thoroughness. The style has lost the remnants of its polyphonic 
character, and the use of parallel thirds and sixths in the solo parts seems 
to indicate a growing interest in the possibilities of the modern piano- 
forte. It is deeply to be regretted that the second half of the charming 
concerto in E flat is missing. Of the completed works, the tender, melan- 

Falck, that the work was written on Leipzig paper also used by Sebastian, is not conclusive. 
Friedemann could have used it while visiting his father on a vacation from Dresden or 
taken the paper with him to Dresden. 

1 The same mood can be found a century later in the music of Johannes Brahms, who 
was familiar with Friedemann's work. 

2 An older version in the Library in Konigsberg is scored for strings and 2 horns. A 
later version formerly in the State Library, Berlin, adds 2 trumpets and timpani to this 
orchestration. It is reproduced in the score published by the New York Public Library. 

3 Friedemann transcribed it later into an ordinary orchestral composition by leaving 
the ripieno sections more or less unchanged, while entrusting 2 oboes assisted by other 
orchestral instruments with the clavier part. In this form he used the movement as an 
introduction to his cantata Ertonet, ihr seligen Volker (F 88). 


choly and romantic Concerto in e is the most mature composition; it is a 
fine piece of exquisite craftsmanship. 

Friedemann's Chamber Music and Symphonic Works are less progress- 
ive in character than his clavier compositions. They show his gift for 
inventing poignant melodies, for equipping not only the treble but also 
the middle parts and, in particular, the bass with rich thematic life. Some 
of the development sections in the symphonies are among the best written 
in Germany at that time, and the combinations of instruments occasionally 
display a sensuous beauty of tone that is almost Italian. On the other hand 
he is old-fashioned in his use of the brass, which he occasionally employs 
as solo instruments in the highest register. His three-part forms lack a 
contrasting second theme, and, unlike the progressive works of the 
Viennese or Mannheim schools, none of his symphonies is supplied with a 
minuet as a middle movement. To sum up, Friedemann's greatness is 
revealed in his ensemble music almost as much as in his clavier composi- 
tions, but in the former he is far more indebted to the past. 

To the period of maturity, and especially the Dresden years, there 
belong four of the six sonatas for two flutes as well as all the trios. The 
flute sonatas (in e, G, E flat and F; F 54, 59, 55, 57) are written for the 
two wind instruments without bass. The style is strongly polyphonic with 
a repeated crossing of parts. The two flutes are independent of each other 
and equal in importance. Most of the sonatas consist of three movements 
(fast-slow-fast); the Duo in G alone has a two-part fugue inserted between 
a slow middle movement and the finale. Such little masterpieces as the 
Cantabile of the Duo in G, the harmonically interesting first movement of 
the Sonata in E flat, and the tragic Lamentabile in the Sonata in F with the 
stirring beginning (Ex. 74) constitute a real enrichment of the scanty 


literature for flutes only. Rarely has music of equal significance been 
written for two instruments so severely limited in their technical possi- 

The two Trios for two flutes and continuo (F 47, 48) and the two 
Trios for two violins and continuo (.F49, 50) are of a similar nature. 



The playful imitative style which is so characteristic of the works of 
young Friedemann prevails in these compositions (Ex. 75). Particularly 


Trio in D major (Bass omitted) Vivace 

attractive is the Trio in B flat, displaying a delightful mixture of manly 
energy and graceful charm. 1 

In his last period of composition Friedemann added two works (in f 
and E flat; -F 58, 56) to his earlier flute duos and wrote the three duos for 
two violas (F 60-62). These five works, probably all composed in 
Berlin, are basically similar to the earlier flute duets, though an ever closer 
approach to strict forms may be detected. In the Duo in f for two flutes, 
both the first and last movements are fugal, and in the Duo in g for two 
violas, the Amoroso of the middle movement is a canon, and the finale a 
fugue. Even in the duos for stringed instruments the composer strictly 
maintains the two-part writing of the flute compositions, avoiding the 
temptation to insert double stops or chords. A gradual decline in creative 
power is unmistakable in these late compositions and in particular in the 
viola duets. The music occasionally has a stilted and laborious character, 
and the poetic names Lamento, Amoroso, Setter^ which Friedemann 
chooses for his middle movements, cannot hide the fact that these sections, 
in which the composer's imagination formerly developed with utter free- 
dom, are now sterile. Actually the Scherio is a hardly disguised copy of the 
uninspired little Amoroso. 

1 Two 'trios' for one melody-instrument and harpsichord, following the style of 
Sebastian's sonatas for violin and harpsichord obbligato, are attributed to Friedemann. 
In either case the authenticity cannot be established beyond doubt. Both trios are more or 
less lacking in the quick little imitations and the repeated crossing of parts characteristic 
of Friedemann's music. The Sonata in B for violin and harpsichord with its mellow harmonic 
language sounds more like a composition by Emanuel than a work by Friedemann. The 
lovely sonata for viola and harpsichord in c (known from a manuscript in the Library of 
Congress, Washington, D.C., written by an unknown hand, and edited by Yella Pessl for 
Oxford University Press, London) is a strongly Italianized composition which seems to 
have been composed by a viola virtuoso familiar with all the secrets of the instrument. 
The wholly idiomatic style of the sonata with its many double and triple stops can hardly 
be found in any other string composition by Friedemann. In particular, his duos for viola 
bear no resemblance to this sonata for viola and harpsichord. 


A single example of Friedemann's orchestral works, the Symphony in 
d (i^ 65) for two flutes and strings, is in the old-fashioned form of the 
French Ouverture. It begins with a slow introduction in which the two 
wind instruments play a noble cantilena, accompanied by strangely hesi- 
tating syncopated strings. The succeeding energetic four-part fugue 
(without flute parts) shows how much Friedemann had learned in the 
school of his father. 1 In spite of its rather conventional theme, this is a 
spirited composition, which shows a clever use of the strings. 

A retrospective character is also discernible in the Symphony in D 
written in a single movement and used as an introduction to the cantata 
Wo geht die Lebensreise hin (F 91/ 1). This brilliant work still makes 
use of the Baroque clarino technique, taking the first trumpet up to 
more than two octaves beyond middle c. 

Seven symphonies {F 63, 64, 67-71) are in the Italian form, allegro- 
andante-allegro, with two minuets attached at the end of the Symphony in 
F. Three of these works are for strings only, one employs wind instru- 
ments ad libitum, while the remaining three compositions are for strings 
and wind instruments. The use of a harpsichord to fill in the middle parts 
is not always necessary. Occasionally the texture is so solid that a continuo 
instrument would only coarsen the sound. All the movements are in two- 
and three-part forms or in a primitive sonata form, introducing frequent 
changes in mood, but hardly ever providing a clearly defined second 
theme in the main section. On the other hand the developments show 
the technique of interweaving parts, imbued with thematical life, in 
a manner to be found in early Haydn works (Ex. 76). A youthful, 

It. 76 ATJegro molio 

Symphony C major 

energetic and occasionally humorous spirit pervades these symphonies, 
and it is to be regretted that of these attractive works which belong 

1 This symphony may have been used as an introduction to Friedemann's Cantata 
O Himmel, schone ('O Heaven, spare'; .F90) written in 1758 in honour of the birthday of 
King Friedrich 'the Great' of Prussia. 


to Friedemann's most important compositions, only very little has been 
reprinted. 1 

Friedemann's Vocal Music shows less variety than his output in the 
field of instrumental composition. It consists almost exclusively of two 
dozen church cantatas written during the eighteen years Friedemann 
served in Halle as music director. Oratorio and secular cantata with their 
epic and humorous possibilities seem to have been of little interest to the 
composer. Although he is reported to have worked in his old age on an 
opera, its music is lost and almost nothing is known about this work. 

Even among the church cantatas, one-third make use of 'contrafacta,' 
re-employing in some arias or choruses musical material from earlier 
cantatas. For instance in Ihr Lichter jener schonen Hohn ('Ye lights of 
yonder beautiful hills'; F 82) written for the second Sunday after Epiphany, 
the music to two arias is taken from the cantata Wir sind Gottes JVerke 
('We are God's workmanship'; F 74), and the music to one aria from the 
cantata Der Herr wird mit Gerechtigkeit richten ('The Lord shall judge with 
righteousness'; F 81). In Verhangnis dein Wilten ('Fate thy fury'; F 87) 
one chorus and one aria originate again in the aforementioned cantata, 
F 81, and two numbers in the cantata Der Hochste erhoret ('The Lord 
grants our prayer'; F 86). Only one number, a soprano recitative, is 
newly composed. In Heraus, verblendeter Hochmut ('Away with thee, blind 
pride'; F 96) three numbers are taken from the cantata Ertonet, ihr seligen 
Volker ('Sing, ye blessed people'; F 88), while only the two chorales are 
new additions. 

While in the case of Sebastian, 'contrafacta' and 'paraphrases' usually 
meant lifting up the inspiration to a higher level, the opposite is true in 
the case of Friedemann. For him such an adaptation is, as a rule, just a 
means to save effort. The weakness of some of these cantatas is due to the 
fact that the arrangements are done in a superficial manner. 2 Only those 
sixteen cantatas which are original works are of real significance. 

They show a remarkable variety in their emotional content. Joy and 

1 Modern editions have rendered accessible the Symphony in D (used as an intro- 
duction to the Cantata, Dies ist der Tag; F 85) with a simple and most attractive middle 
movement, and the tender Siciliano from the incomplete Symphony in A, belonging to 
those fine little character-pieces in slow tempo in which Friedemann excels. 

2 Bad declamation, resulting from a careless adaptation of new texts to precomposed 
melodies, is particularly noticeable in the contralto aria of the cantata Ihr Lichter jener 
schonen Hohn and in the tenor aria of the cantata, Heraus, verblendeter Hochmut. 



jubilation find as true an expression as sadness and grief. In their technical 
aspects these cantatas fit into the overall picture of the Central and North 
German cantatas of the period. They are composed of a number of arias, 
recitatives and duets, usually concluded by a chorale. The beginning is 
made by a freely invented chorus or by a four-part chorale. Occasionally 
a sinfonia in one or three movements precedes the vocal section. As the 
sinfonia was often intended for a different purpose, it corresponded to 
the main part of the cantata only in its general festive character. 

Sebastian gave greater significance and dignity to this form, extending 
the individual numbers and linking them firmly together. Friedemann 
followed his father in many details of melody, instrumentation and contra- 
puntal texture, and, in particular, in his arias and recitatives he was strongly 
dependent on Sebastian's model. The chorale, which was so often the 
germ-cell out of which a whole cantata of the Thomas Cantor grew, lost 
this function for the son, to whom, as to his contemporaries, the hymn 
sung by the full congregation no longer meant the very core of Protestant 
church music. 

The choruses in these cantatas are obviously influenced by instru- 
mental forms. Some of these numbers seem like free adaptations of the 
early sonata forms used in that period, while others resemble a prelude 
followed by a fugue in which the two sections (the introduction and the 
main part) are thematically firmly connected. 1 Even in his duets and arias 
Friedemann's instrumental way of thought is occasionally noticeable. The 
duet Jesu, grosser Himmelskonig from the Christmas Cantata JVunder 
('0 miracle'; F 92), for instance, contains a canon for soprano and con- 
tralto which resembles in abbreviated form Friedemann's duos for two 

2* 77 




rrrr § 

Vnd elicit 



ffitnr j gp p I r^ ttEfJPl farr g|^S P 

Vncl dich tiiit_ 

Glau hen sehavi- 

flutes (Ex. 77). Similarly the 'Cavata' fferfo mein Heri ('Heart, my Heart'; 
F 97) results from the 'contrafactum' of an instrumental composition, the 

1 To the numbers resembling the early sonata form belong the first choruses in 
Lasset uns ahlegen, Der Herr wird mit Gerechtigkeit and Er%ittert und fallet (F 80, 81, 83). 
To the numbers in fugue form belong the first choruses in Es ist elne Stimme, GottfdAret 
auf and Dienet dem Herrn (F 89, 75, 84). 


middle movement of the Concerto for cembalo solo in G, whose tender 
cantilena Friedemann used as a basis for this wedding song 1 (Ex. 78). 

X x?8 

*) Tit crn&mcnt i« omiltid in iht vocal vtriic 

Friedemann's first cantata Wer mich liebet ('If a man love Me'; F 72), 
written in 1746, soon after his arrival from Dresden, still shows traces of 
the Italianized style prevailing in the Saxon capital, where the composer 
had spent thirteen years. Languid melodies of a rather secular character, 
harmonies of little strength, long, extended and not too well organized 
forms are noticeable in this Whitsuntide music. It is characteristic of the 
greater independence Friedemann achieved in his instrumental music that 
hardly any of the works written in Dresden reveal the influence of the 
artistic atmosphere of that city as clearly as this first cantata. Such initial 
weaknesses were soon overcome and are no longer noticeable in later 
works. Two very attractive cantatas, Gott fdhret auf ('God is gone up'; 
F 75) and Lasset wis ablegen ('Let us cast off the works of darkness'; 
F 80), were written during the following years; the latter in 1749, the 
former possibly somewhat earlier. Gott fdhret auf destined for the feast 
of the Ascension, was scored for trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings and 4 
voices. It starts out with a magnificent fugue for chorus and includes a 
jubilant aria for bass. 2 The glory and majesty of the Lord find effective 
expression in this severe and powerful music. The Whitsuntide cantata 
Lasset uns ablegen describes in its first chorus, mainly with the help of 
harmonic changes, the contrast between the 'armour of light' and the 
'darkness of sinful night.' The sudden descent from D to B flat, diminished 
seventh chords and modulations to minor keys depict the horrors of dark- 
ness, while the high-pitched notes of human voices and trumpets describe 
in brilliant major keys the blessings of those dwelling in brightness. The 
beautiful arias, recitatives, and chorales following this first chorus contri- 

1 It might be mentioned in this connection that in the aria Zerbrecht, ^erreisst (F 94), 
one of the few vocal works by Friedemann available in a modern edition, which is scored 
for organ, horn, and soprano solo, the organ dominates and is treated with much greater 
care than the solo voices. Similar instances can also be found in other cantatas. 

2 This aria was used again later in the cantata written for the birthday of King 
Friedrich 'the Great.' 


bute to ensure for this cantata an important place among the church music 
of the period. 

A second cantata written for Ascension Day, Wo geht die Lebensreise kin 
('Where does life's journey lead to?'; ^91) has no initial chorus. The com- 
poser could dispense with this number, since the introductory symphony 
in D with its oboes, trumpets, and timpani prepares in a general way for 
the solemn mood of the work. In this cantata the emphasis is on the arias. 
There is a brilliant number for tenor with trumpets and strings and, best 
of all, a lovely aria for contralto and solo viola, Der Himmel neigt sich ^u 
der Erde ('Heaven leans down towards Earth'). This is a composition of 
great fervour and melodic beauty in which solo voice and solo instrument 
are combined to describe the mystery of Jesus' ascent to Heaven (Ex. 79) 


VerTfimTic] neigiuchzn der Er-dej daJe.siis Zu detnTa . ier gehi t derlim .tntj TiaqitWhz.a dtTli.db 

.3 S-. 





nHg trp? n^j -j inp| 

in][a mannerjreminiscent of Sebastian's style. Somewhat similar in 
character is the Whitsuntide cantata Dies 1st der Tag ('This is the day'; F 
85) starting with a fine symphony in three movements. This carefree and 
unproblematic instrumental piece is followed by four numbers for solo 
voices and instruments, among which the forceful and heroic bass aria, 
scored with bassoon, horns, and strings, excels. 

To the most remarkable movements in these compositions belongs the 
first chorus of the Easter cantata Eriittert undfallet ('Tremble and fall'; F 
83). Its stirring description of Jesus' suffering at the words 'whom you 
have beaten, sneered at and scorned' (Ex. 80) reveals the composer's 
expressive power. Of equal significance is the initial chorus from the 
cantata Es ist eine Stimme ('There is a voice'; F 89). This double fugue 
shows Friedemann as one of the great writers of contrapuntal music in a 
time that was more and more leaning towards a homophonic style. It is to 
be regretted that the rest of this cantata is not on the same artistic level. 
However, very few of Friedemann's vocal compositions attain musical per- 
fection through all their numbers. 

On the whole, Sebastian's eldest son was not so successful in his 
cantatas as in his instrumental music. His solo numbers and the poly- 



phonic choruses are dependent on his father's model, and only in the more 
homophonic choruses does he attempt to inject new blood into the body 
of Protestant church music. 


Jlen den Hit ge. 

— ^ft i rW^lOT^lkff tfP 


J. Sebastian Bach= Maria Barbara Bach 


1 684- 1 720 

Carl Philipp Emanuel = Johanna Maria Dannemann 



Johann August Anna Carolina Philippina Johann Sebastian II 
1745-89 1746-1804 1748-78 

emanuel, born on March 8, 1714, at Weimar, began to compose at an 
early age. It was typical of his enterprising nature that when he was 17 he 
engraved with his own hand his opus 1, a minuet for the clavier, and 
published it almost simultaneously with his father's opus I, the Clavier 
Ubung. At that time he was already an outstanding clavier player. Sebastian, 
though certainly aware of this son's talent, was determined that, like 
Friedemann, he should enjoy the advantages of a good University 
training. Thus Emanuel studied law for three years at Leipzig, whereupon 
he moved to Frankfurt-on-the-Oder to continue his studies. 1 The family 
probably felt that enough had then been done for the education of the 
youth. Like Friedemann he had been allowed three years at Leipzig Uni- 
versity; if he was anxious to continue on these lines, he ought to support 
himself by his musical abilities. 2 This was not easy in Leipzig, which, 
thanks to Sebastian's training, was stocked with many excellent young 

1 He was not the first Bach to be connected with this University. Veit Bach (1535- 
1610) lectured there as Professor of Theology before being appointed pastor to the court 
of the Elector Johann Georg in Berlin, and he returned to Frankfurt in his old age. The 
Necrolog stressed Veit Bach's 'powerful voice in intoning chorales and hymns.' He was 
born in Kronach, a litde Franconian town near the Thuringian border, thus not far removed 
from other Bach centres. Yet Mr. Paul Bach, who unearthed material on the second Veit 
Bach, believes it to be unlikely that this outstanding preacher was related to the Bach 

2 The present author does not believe that Sebastian expected Emanuel to become a 
lawyer, a theory maintained, for instance, by A. E. Cherbuliez ('C. P. E. Bach,' Zurich, 
1940). If Sebastian had had this aim he could have let his son continue studying at the 
highly renowned Leipzig University at less expense. Studying law was no rarity among 
prospective musicians, as the cases of Schiitz, Kuhnau, Walther, Mattheson, and Handel 
prove. On the other hand, as early as 1733 Emanuel had applied, certainly with the approval 
and help of his father, for the organist's post at Naumburg. 


C. P. EMANUEL IN FRANKFURT (l735"I738) 337 

musicians. In Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, however, there was as yet little 
musical activity, so that an ambitious talented youth could establish 
himself. And Emanuel did just that. According to the statement in 
the Genealogy, he gave clavier instruction; in addition, he 'directed a 
musical academy/ (as he related himself) and 'conducted and composed 
for public concerts and all the different festivities.' 1 Although the young 
Emanuel thus enjoyed at Frankfurt a position of uncontested leadership, 
he did not consider staying there permanently, for he felt the need of 
living in an artistic centre where he would meet other musicians and learn 
from them. In 1738 he was ready to leave the University and look for a 
good opening, but, unlike his brother Friedemann, he did not attempt to 
find work in one of the places where his father's reputation and influence 
would have been of great help. Pursuing the course of independent action 
that had taken him far away from Leipzig to Frankfurt, he decided to 
stay in Prussia and try his luck in Berlin, its capital. It may be that he was 
advised to do so by the two sons of the Prussian minister, von Happe, who 
attended the University simultaneously with him; for very cordial rela- 
tions subsequently existed between the Bachs and Minister von Happe, 
who was godfather to one of Emanuel's and one of Friedemann's sons, 2 
and may also have been instrumental in arranging Sebastian's visit to the 
Prussian King. Anyway, in 1738 Emanuel went to Berlin with the in- 
tention of settling down there. But soon afterwards he was invited to 
accompany a young nobleman on the customary continental tour and he 
accepted, eagerly anticipating the joys of foreign travel. All cravings of 
this kind were to remain unfulfilled for Emanuel throughout his life. Just 
when he was about to embark on his trip, he was called to Rheinsberg, 
where the Prussian Crown Prince, Friedrich, because of a feud with his 
father, resided in a sort of exile, planning gigantic reforms and cultural 
activities for the time when he would succeed to the throne, and enjoying 
meanwhile a feast of good music, which had to be kept secret from His 
Majesty, who was interested only in promoting military perfection. Yet 
the Crown Prince had a very distinguished little coterie at his disposal, 
with which, as an accomplished flutist, he played regularly. It is not known 
how Friedrich happened to become interested in Emanuel Bach. Maybe 
he had got hold of the various works for the flute which the young com- 
poser had written, or maybe the von Happe family praised Emanuel's out- 

1 Cf. his Autobiography, first published in the German edition of Burney's 'The 
Present State of Music in Germany.' An English translation is to be found in Lady G. M. 
Wallace's 'Letters of Distinguished Musicians,' London, 1857-59. 

2 Cf. Miesner in BJ, 1934. Friedemann dedicated his clavier sonata in E flat to von 


standing gifts to him. At all events he called Bach to Rheinsberg, and im- 
pressed by the young artist's superb clavier playing, engaged him as 
accompanist, although a formal appointment could not yet be made owing 
to Friedrich's peculiar position. Two years later he succeeded to the 
Prussian throne, and Emanuel, as he wrote in his autobiographical sketch, 
'had the honour to accompany, alone at the harpsichord, the first flute solo 
that Friedrich played as a king/ 

In spite of being, from the outset, engaged in the military campaigns 
which were to fill a large part of his reign, the monarch managed to carry 
out his ambitious artistic plans. Magnificent castles were erected in 
Charlottenburg and Potsdam, the latter by the name of Sans-Souci, his 
favourite residence and the scene of most of the King's musical activities; 
a beautiful opera house was built in Berlin and inaugurated in 1742 with 
a band of brilliant Italian singers and players which Burney praised as the 
'most splendid in Europe.' During the carnival, opera performances took 
place twice a week and were free to all decently dressed citizens and 
visitors from outside. The King occupied a seat immediately behind the 
conductor, reading the score with him, and checking any slight inaccuracy 
or deviation, for which the musician responsible was severely reprimanded 
by His Majesty. The lavishness prevailing in the first years of the opera's 
existence is best illustrated by the fact that no less than 2771 thalers were 
spent on lighting for a single performance. In addition, the group of 
musicians who had served Friedrich so loyally at Rheinsberg was en- 
larged until it numbered some 40 artists assembling five times a week at 
Potsdam for evening concerts. Among them the outstanding flautist 
Johann Joachim Quantz enjoyed a unique position. He had been 
Friedrich's teacher off and on since 1727, and the pupil considered 
Quantz's style in playing and performing as the highest conceivable peak 
of mastery. Quantz wrote no less than 300 flute concertos in the Italian 
manner for his august disciple, and the King played them in rotation, 
performing six, or, with advancing years, four in every one of his soirees 
musicaks, and in four decades of musical activity never grew tired of 
them. Quantz received a very high salary, 2000 thalers per annum, plus a 
generous honorarium for each new composition, and a hundred ducats for 
every new flute, which the skilful musician built himself. And not only 
was he well paid, he also enjoyed great power at court. He was the only 
musician privileged to interrupt the monarch's playing with a 'bravo,' 
which exclamation he very adroitly uttered whenever the King, after a 
difficult passage, was out of breath. The following joke, ascribed to 
Emanuel Bach, delighted all the court officials and made even the King 

C. P. EMANUEL IN BERLIN (174O-I768) 339 

laugh: 'Query: "What is the most frightening beast in the world?" 
Answer: "The lapdog of Mrs. Quantz. It is so terrifying that it scares Mrs. 
Quantz; Mr. Quantz is afraid of her, and he himself is feared by the 
greatest monarch on this earth." ' 

Second in influence at court were the two brothers Graun, Johann 
Gottlieb, outstanding violinist (cf. p. 192) and conductor of the royal 
orchestra, and Karl Heinrich, composer of the famous passion-oratorio 
'Der Tod Jesu,' an excellent singer and director of the Berlin opera, for 
which he wrote within 14 years no less than 27 works in the Italian style. 
In addition, various members of the highly gifted Benda family from 
Czechoslovakia were serving at court, among them the composer, Georg 
Benda, 1 and the eminent violinist, Frantisek Benda, member of the original 
band in Rheinsberg, who on Gottlieb Graun's death in 1771 took over the 
latter's duties. 

Compared with such luminaries as Quantz and the Grauns, Emanuel 
enjoyed only a very modest position. His initial salary amounted to 300 
thalers and although it was raised to 500 in 1756 and was further increased 
later, when he received calls from outside and wanted to leave Berlin, 
it never approached the honoraria granted to the King's favourites. 
Emanuel unfortunately was not one of these. Although the position of 
accompanist entailed a close co-operation with the performer to be accom- 
panied, there never developed between the two men a relationship of a 
more relaxed nature, such as had flourished between Sebastian and Prince 
Leopold of Cothen. Emanuel, though much more worldly than his father 
and elder brother, still did not find it possible to recognize the King as the 
highest authority in artistic matters and to feign the enthusiasm which the 
monarch expected. There was a trait in his nature which made him singu- 
larly unfit for court service. As his former schoolmate, Johann Friedrich 
Doles, 2 put it: 'From his early youth, Emanuel suffered from a penchant 
frequently found in nimble-minded and agile-bodied youngsters, that of 
playing jokes on others.' (The word 'suffer' is not as unsuitable as it would 
seem at first sight, for Emanuel's jokes must have got him into a lot of 
trouble!) With advancing age this tendency became one for making 
caustic remarks. Even in the King's presence he could not at times re- 
strain his tongue. When a guest once gushingly remarked to the august 
player: 'What rhythm,' Bach murmured audibly, 'What rhythms,' which 
certainly did not endear him to His Prussian Majesty. Nor did the King 

1 He had met Sebastian Bach and his sons as early as 1734 while visiting Leipzig. 

2 Doles, born in 171 5, was a pupil of Sebastian Bach, and became Thomas Cantor in 
1756, a position he held for 33 years. 


care too much for the progressive trends in Emanuel's music. The 
monarch's taste was very clearly defined. He was capable of genuine 
enthusiasm for the style he loved; but, on the other hand, he absolutely 
ignored whatever lay outside the very narrow confines of his predilec- 
tions. He fervently patronized Italian music, French literature, and the 
French Rococo style in architecture; asked, however, to listen to a Ger- 
man singer, he answered that he might just as well listen to the neighing 
of a horse. 1 The King's attitude eventually produced a certain petrification 
in Berlin's musical life, and it was this state of affairs which Burney de- 
scribed, to the fury of the local musicians, with the following words: 2 'Of 
all the musicians who have been in the service of Prussia for more than 
30 years, Carl P. E. Bach and Francis Benda have, perhaps, been the only 
two who dared to have a style of their own; the rest are imitators, even 

Quantz and Graun Of his Majesty's two favourites, the one is languid, 

and the other frequently common and insipid, and yet their names are 
religion at Berlin, and more sworn by than those of Luther and Calvin . . . 
for though a universal toleration prevails here as to different sects of 
Christians, yet, in music, whoever dares to possess any other tenets than 
those of Graun and Quantz is sure to be persecuted.' 

Yet the accompanist stayed in the King's service for 28 years. Oppor- 
tunities to accept other positions presented themselves, but Friedrich was 
loath to let him go, being aware of Emanuel's steadily rising fame which 
conferred distinction on the Prussian court. Emanuel, on the other hand, 
was in no position to force the issue, for though as a Saxon subject free 
to leave Berlin whenever he chose, he had to think of his wife 3 and three 
children who, as Prussian subjects, could be detained at the King's 
pleasure. Fortunately the routine work, bound to become increasingly 
boring, was lightened through the engagement of a second accompanist, 
alternating every four weeks with Emanuel. In 1754 Ch. Nichelmann, a 
former pupil of Friedemann and Emanuel, joined the band in this capacity, 
and was paid, to Emanuel's humiliation, twice as much as his former 
teacher. When he resigned after two years, Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch 4 

1 It was the great Elisabeth Schmehling (married Mara), who, through Quanta's 
intervention, finally succeeded in getting an audition. 

2 'The Present State of Music in Germany,' 1772, II, pp. 230 and foil. 

3 He had married in 1744 Johanna Maria Dannemann, daughter of a wine merchant. 

4 Fasch's father, Johann Friedrich Fasch, conductor to the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, 
was at first opposed to his son's going to Berlin, as he feared the youth would be 
contaminated by the irreligious spirit prevailing there. Emanuel thereupon offered to let 
his young colleague stay in his own home so as to watch over him carefully. Friedrich 
Fasch later became the founder of the Berlin Singakademie. Cf. the Biography of Fasch 
by C. Fr. Zelter, Berlin, 1801. 

C. P. EMANUEL IN BERLIN (174O-I768) 341 

was engaged and, having a pliable nature, proved more acceptable to the 
royal flautist than Emanuel. 

In spite of setbacks at court, these years in Berlin were by no means 
unhappy ones for Emanuel. He was an artist in living and knew how to 
derive enjoyment from almost anything; he found in Berlin much that 
gave him satisfaction. Not that the city was either beautiful or comfortable 
to live in. Emanuel may have heartily concurred with the contemporary 
visitor 1 from southern Germany who complained: 'On wet days high 
boots are as indispensable in this royal city as a spoon to eat soup with. 
In other towns streets are cleaned every week, not here. Whereas after a 
good rain one cannot manage unless one's feet are armoured and booted, 
in dry weather one yearns for armour to protect the eyes. Whole clouds 
of dust give to human beings strolling around the appearance of gods 
hiding their glory from mortal eyes in mist.' But such discomforts could 
be borne, for Berlin offered so much that was stimulating. Visiting the 
opera, for instance, was quite a novel experience for Emanuel, and it 
proved of decisive influence in the formation of his own style. Besides, 
there was a bracing intellectual climate in Berlin; eminent scholars and 
writers assembled here who vigorously cleared away old prejudices and 
probed into the cause of everything. To write treatises on musical and 
aesthetic matters became the fashion in Berlin; Marpurg, Quantz, Agri- 
cola, Kirnberger, Sulzer 2 and many others did important work in this 
field, and Emanuel himself was inspired to contribute in 1753 n ^ s epoch- 
making Versuch iiber die wahre Art das Clavier ^u spielen. Six years later 
three young writers, the poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the philosopher, 
Moses Mendelssohn (grandfather of Felix), and the publisher, Christian 
Friedrich Nicolai, started publishing their Briefe die neueste Litteratur 
betreffend (Letters regarding recent literature) which swept like a thunder- 
storm through Germany, destroying the prevailing influence of French 
literature, and paving the way for the glorious rebirth of German poetry 
in the classical era. 

Life was indeed full of zest and excitement for a man like Emanuel 
Bach having wide interests and a keen intellect. Most of the capital's 
eminent writers and artistically-minded high officials were among the 

1 Josef Winkler, 'Hebe,' Nuremberg, 1782. 

a Cf. Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, 'Der critische Musicus an der Spree,' 1749-50; 
J. J. Quantz, 'Versuch einer Anweisung die Flote traversiere zu spielen,' 1752; Chr. Gott- 
fried Krause, 'Von der musicalischen Poesie,' 1752; J. Friedrich Agricola, 'Anleitung zur 
Singkunst,' 1757; J. G. Sulzer, 'Pensees sur l'origine et les differents emplois des sciences 
et des beaux-arts,' 1757; J. Philipp Kirnberger, 'Konstruktion der gleichschwebenden 
Temperatur,' 1760, and 'Die Kunst des reinen Satzes,' 1774-79. 


friends he met at the Berlin Monday Club, at the Saturday concerts taking 
place at Agricola's house, and in his own hospitable home. He offered his 
friends many hours of delight by his improvisations on the clavichord, 
while to the wives he paid compliments in a unique way by writing 
charming musical portraits of them which appeared in various anthologies 
of the time. La Bergius, la Borchward, la Prinzette, la Buchholtz, la Stahl 1 
were all wives of high officials whom he thus honoured. The gay atmo- 
sphere prevailing in Bach's circle is reflected in a letter which the poet 
Johann Ludwig Gleim wrote to a friend, Johann Peter Uz: 'Ramler, 2 
Lessing, Sulzer, Agricola, Bach, Graun, in short all those belonging to the 
Muses and liberal arts, daily get together, either on land or on water. 
What a pleasure to glide in such company on the Spree [Berlin's river] 
competing with the swans! What a joy to lose one's way with this group 
in the Thiergarten among a thousand girls.' 

It is interesting to note that Gleim's letter, dated August 16, 1758, was 
written at a time when Prussia had already been engaged for two years in 
the life-and-death struggle of the 'seven years war.' Apparently Bach and 
his gay friends possessed the talent of living for the moment. Shortly 
afterwards, however, Emanuel had to leave Berlin with his family, fearing 
a Russian occupation, and on his return he and Sulzer joined the citizens' 
guard. Although the long war did not bring Emanuel the hardships from 
which his brother, Friedemann, suffered in Halle, it involved him in great 
economic straits. All the court employees were paid their salaries in paper 
bills worth only a quarter of their former value, and had Emanuel not had 
a steady income from numerous private pupils, attracted by his reputation 
as the foremost clavier player in Germany, he would have been very badly 
off. When the war was won, the King, contrary to general expectations, 
did not compensate his musicians for the great losses they had sustained; 
Emanuel, like his father, was extremely touchy over financial matters, and 
he was 'very much upset about this and did not hide his feelings.' 3 

1 Samuel Buchholtz, a historian, wrote, 'Versuch einer Geschichte der Churmark 
Brandenburg.' Frau von Printzen, wife of a Kriegsrath, was godmother to Emanuel's 
second son. Hofrat Dr. Georg Ernst Stahl was an old friend of the Bachs. Sebastian had 
probably stayed in his house on his visit to Berlin. Friedemann dedicated six sonatas to Stahl 
in 1744. Stahl was godfather to Emanuel's daughter, while his wife was godmother to the 
musician's first son. 

2 Cf. Carl Schiiddekopf: 'Briefwechsel zwischen Gleim und Uz,' Tubingen, 1899. 
Joh. Ludwig Gleim (1719-1803) belonged with his friends, Joh. Peter Uz (1720-96) and 
Karl Wilhelm Ramler (1725-98), to the then fashionable 'Anacreontic school' of poetry, 
specializing in gay little poems in the style of the Greek poet. On the other hand, Ramler 
was the author of most successful cantata and oratorio texts. 

3 Cf. Zelter, I.e. 

C. P. EMANUEL IN BERLIN (174O-I768) 343 

Moreover, the King, worn out from the strains of the long war, was 
now much less interested in music-making, so Emanuel felt the time to be 
ripe for leaving. His thoughts turned to Hamburg, where an opening was 
bound to occur before long. Emanuel's godfather, Georg Philipp Tele- 
mann, was well over 80 and had held the position of music director there 
for more than 40 years. Telemann thought very highly of Emanuel 1 and 
was quite likely to recommend him. Letters were exchanged regularly 
between them, and Telemann enlisted his godson's help in obtaining 
new Berlin compositions which he might perform in Hamburg. Emanuel 
eagerly complied, and one of his answers is quoted here as an example of 
his sense of humour. The letter was written on December 29, 1756, after 
the outbreak of the war, and Emanuel in his report felt tempted to ridicule 
the prevailing fashion for using military slang by describing his search for 
newmusic as the marauding action of the notorious Croatian 'pandours': 2 

'Most esteemed and honoured Director Telemann: 

Nobody but Your Honour could have seduced me into adopting the 
profession of a pandour. Fortunately I am an honour-loving Saxon 3 who 
realized that not too much danger would be involved. My aide-de-camp, 
Mr. D. RolofF [a copyist] deserves much praise; he has reconnoitred 
according to instruction and his report is enclosed herewith. What do you 
think of this our first action? Do you think we might eventually amount to 
something? I think people like us ought to be engaged by you. For greater 
security I have put every parcel listed by Mr. RolofF once more in a paper 
valise, strapped tightly, and have pulled over all of them an oilcloth army 
blanket which is marked with the initials of Your Honour, our worthy 
chief. You will know better than I do, what part of it is winter, and what 
summer forage 4 . . . . The older Mr. Graun was to send me this very 
morning his [violin] concertos well wrapped, on pain of having to mail 
them himself, should he miss to-day's conveyance. As I have not seen 
them yet, I presume he has, of his own free will, submitted to said punish- 
ment. If need be, I await Your Honour's further orders. I am aware that I 

1 After Sebastian Bach's death Telemann wrote a sonnet at the end of which he 
expressed the belief that Sebastian's name was gaining special glory through his worthy 
son in Berlin. The sonnet was published in Marpurg's 'Kritische Beytrage,' 1754-55. 

2 Cf. Ernst Fritz Schmid: 'C. P. E. Bach und seine Kammermusik,' Cassel, 193 1, 
p. 32. 

3 Saxony was among Prussia's enemies in this war, and the Saxons were derided as 

4 Forage being vegetable food for animals, Emanuel uses the expression 'winter 
and summer forage' to distinguish works suitable for different events of the church year. 


am handling the jobs of gendarme and pandour with equal zeal, though, 
alas, not with similar efficiency. If my skill in plundering were only ade- 
quate, my good will could no longer be doubted. I almost forgot, in the 
rush, my New Year's wishes. May God keep you yet for many years 
healthy, lively, cheerful, for [Germany's] adornment, joy, and benefit. 
This is wished out of his most loyal heart by, 

Your Honour's very own, 
P.S. Will Your Honour be good enough to convey my compliments to 
Mr. H. L. Schubuk, telling him I'll answer his last esteemed missive in the 
very near future. Not lack of a good conscience, but lack of time prevented 
me from doing so.' 1 

On June 25, 1767, Telemann died and applications for his position 
were made by four renowned musicians: Emanuel, his half-brother, Fried- 
rich (cf. p. 381), his former colleague in the Prussian orchestra, Johann 
Heinrich Rolle, 2 and Hermann Friedrich Raupach, conductor of the 
Imperial Opera in Petersburg. The decision was taken five months later 
and Emanuel was chosen. The next step was to get King Friedrich's per- 
mission. Emanuel used all the persuasion of which he was capable, alleging 
that his bad state of health 3 necessitated less strenuous duties; and prob- 
ably the King's sister, Princess Amalia, helped too. Finally the King 
reluctantly gave his consent, and the Princess, to honour the composer, 
appointed him before his departure, conductor of her court. In March 1768 
everything was settled and Emanuel took charge of his new duties. In 
many ways they resembled those of Sebastian in Leipzig; Emanuel was 
Cantor of the Latin school, the Johanneum, and musical director of Ham- 
burg's five main churches. Like his father, he was only interested in the 
musical directorship, and fortunately he was able to free himself from 
teaching work at school. Telemann had paved the way by refusing to 
teach extra-musical subjects; Emanuel went one step further by having 

1 Schubuk was a town official in Hamburg. This postscript shows that Emanuel was 
already at that time in contact with influential persons in the city. 

2 Rolle was from 1741-46 viola player at Friedrich 'the Great's' court and subsequendy 
organist at Magdeburg. His father, Christian Friedrich Rolle, organist of Quedlinburg, 
had examined the Halle organ together with Sebastian Bach in 171 6; and in 1722, shordy 
before Sebastian did so, he applied for the Thomas Cantor's position in Leipzig. 

3 Little is known about Emanuel's physical condition. He mentioned to Forkel that 
in 1743 he had to take the waters at Teplitz because of his podagra. He is also reported to 
have found travelling to Potsdam on the very bad roads extremely strenuous. But as he 
was able to reach the age of 74 we may assume that his gouty condition was not too serious. 

C. P. EMANUEL IN HAMBURG (1768-I788) 345 

even the music lessons at the Johanneum taken over by a deputy whom he 
remunerated. Thus he was able to concentrate on the musical work of the 
churches, and this was indeed a big enough sphere of activities. The 
quantity of music offered was staggering; something like 200 musical per- 
formances 1 were given every year, among them no less than 10 Passions 
which would at times be crowded into 13 successive days, the same work 
being sung in sequence in all the churches of the town. To provide such 
an enormous output of music was no easy matter, and Telemann had 
probably enlisted not only Emanuel's help to solve the problem. His god- 
son, on the other hand, relied heavily on music by Telemann, and more 
still on the works of his own father. Besides extensive duties as conductor 
and composer, the position entailed administrative work. All the honoraria 
paid to instrumentalists, vocalists, copyists, etc., passed through the music 
director's hands. Emanuel kept most meticulous accounts of such pay- 
ments as well as of financial matters concerning himself, and, curiously 
enough, did not mind work of this kind. He had an excellent business head 
and everything connected with finances interested him. At times he jotted 
down characteristic aide-memoires in his account-book, such as the 
pleased comment 'the Dutch ducats were exchanged to me at a somewhat 
higher rate than the official one,' or the determined remark regarding pay- 
ment he had received for a funeral music: 'henceforth / will fix the honor- 
arium and bill it.' The income Emanuel derived from his church work was 
quite considerable. His daughter, after his death, made a detailed statement 
of the various items according to which he received a yearly amount of 
more than 1000 thalers, 2 plus a quantity of coal, and revenues from the 
sale of librettos to his compositions (on the exclusive handling of which 
he insisted with iron determination), 3 from funeral music, from testing 
applicants for the various organist's positions, from writing music for 
certain civic occasions etc., etc. His was a lucrative position, as everything 
had to be lucrative in this thriving centre of German trade, where money 
moved freely. Being money-minded was the natural thing in Hamburg. 
Here civic jobs were still being bought, as in Sebastian's time (cf. p. 159), 
here nobody saw anything offensive in the publication of a prayer-book 
offering devotional exercises alternating with quotations of the rates of 
exchange for the European currencies in the various capitals. 4 Emanuel 
felt quite at home in this peculiar atmosphere, and his ability to take an 

1 Cf. 'Acta die neueren Einrichtungen bey den Kirchenmusiken betreffend,' 1789-90. 

2 Cf. Miesner, 'Philipp Emanuel Bach in Hamburg.' 

3 He fought a spirited battle a la Sebastian with the printer, Meyer, and won. 

4 'Geistreich Gebetbiichlein vor Reisende zu Land und Wasser.' 


intelligent part in financial talks endeared him no less to the burghers 
than his sparkling wit and pleasant manners. 

The financial improvement was not the only asset of the Hamburg 
position. Emanuel also felt relieved not to have to conform to court 
etiquette any more, not to have to wait for hours in the King's ante- 
chamber for a royal command, but to be a highly respected member of a 
prosperous community. He relished the 'air of cheerfulness, industry, 
plenty and liberty in the place, seldom to be seen in other parts of Ger- 
many' (Burney), and he was no less responsive to the city's lovely loca- 
tion. Reichardt, who met the Hamburg music director in 1774, liked to 
ramble with Emanuel round the town. He evidently had in mind these 
walks when he wrote in his Brief e eines aufmerksamen Reisenden: 'Round 
this great commercial city the scenery is of particular beauty and variety. 
The Elbe and the Alster with their wide expanses of water studded with 
sailing craft, and their charming shores present the finest views. A parti- 
cular feature of the Alster, unique among all other rivers, is the huge 
reservoir it forms within the city, which is bordered on all sides by 
avenues inviting to very pleasant walks.' 

Another attractive aspect of life in Hamburg was afforded by the wide 
circle of friends Emanuel made. All the eminent writers of the town were 
on excellent terms with the new music director: Lessing, now also a resi- 
dent of Hamburg; the revered poet Klopstock and his second wife, 
who was an excellent singer; the great preacher, Christoph Christian 
Sturm 1 (cf. 111. XVI), whose poems Emanuel set to music, as he did those 
of his other poet-friends, J. Heinrich Voss, Mathias Claudius, and Hein- 
rich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg. Hamburg's intelligentsia accepted the 
genial and erudite musician with open arms. In the houses of professors 
J. Georg Biisch and Christoph Daniel Ebeling, 2 who lived in the same 
street as Emanuel, many delightful gatherings took place at which music 
was regularly performed. Comparing the social life of Emanuel with that 
of his father, we see how, in spite of holding similar positions, Sebastian 
was confined much more closely than his son to intercourse with his 
immediate colleagues. Various causes were responsible for Emanuel's 
different standing in the community: a general tendency of the time to 
remove former strict barriers between the different professions; the 

1 Sturm, pastor at St. Petri, had for several years been teacher and preacher in Halle, 
where he probably met Friedemann Bach. 

2 Biisch was professor of mathematics and a renowned writer on commercial subjects; 
Ebeling, professor of History and Greek, and translator of Burney's 'State of Music' into 
German. (Cf. Note i, p. 337.) 

C. P. EMANUEL IN HAMBURG (1768-I788) 347 

academic education Emanuel had received, which gave him a certain status 
in the eyes of the intellectuals; and, most of all, Emanuel's natural social 
graces. Hospitality was in the Bachs' blood, and Emanuel, like his father, 
delighted in it; but while visiting musicians all flocked to the Thomas 
Cantor's house, few members of the University found their way to it. 
There was, on the other hand, no important writer or scholar in Hamburg 
who did not feel honoured by intercourse with Emanuel Bach. Distin- 
guished visitors also came from out of town to meet him. One of these 
visits had far-reaching results. The Austrian Baron Gottfried van Swieten, 
while attached as ambassador to the Prussian court, had heard so much 
about Emanuel's art that he went to Hamburg to make the composer's 
acquaintance. He acquired various works by Sebastian and Emanuel and 
ordered symphonies from the latter; all of which he introduced in his 
Viennese concerts, to the delight of Mozart, on whom the Thomas 
Cantor's music made a profound impression. 

It would be wrong to assume, however, that life in Hamburg had 
nothing but pleasant aspects for Emanuel. The great quantity of music 
played coupled with the City's unwillingness to spend much on produc- 
tion resulted in poor quality. As a report written after Emanuel's death 
put it: 1 'The instrumentalists grew bored with so much playing, the 
singers became weary, hoarse, and even ill.' Burney, too, when visiting 
Hamburg in 1773, reported that he heard at St. Catherine's some very fine 
music by Emanuel 'very ill performed, and to a congregation wholly in- 
attentive.' The composer, continues Burney, was well aware of these 
deficiencies, but put up with them because of the tranquillity and indepen- 
dence he was enjoying. Although this report sounds as if it might be some- 
what exaggerated and is contradicted by other contemporary verdicts, 
such as that of Gerstenberg, who praised the music at St. Catherine's as 
'delighting like the angels' harmony,' 2 there is certainly some grain of truth 
in it. Emanuel made a clear distinction between the music he composed or 
performed in the discharge of his duties, and that written for his own 
enjoyment. His official work at Hamburg belonged to the 'bread and 
butter' category, and fully aware of the limited resources at his disposal, 
he put up with the inevitably mediocre execution as long as he had a 
chance to do first-class music as well. To this second category belonged 

1 Cf. Note 1, p. 345. 

2 Similarly Georg Benda wrote to a friend on November 18, 1778: 'Recently I was 
surprised in a most pleasant manner at Vespers. I went to hear Bach's Michaelmas music. 
You may imagine whether I expected anything mediocre, knowing Bach had composed it. 
However, great though my expectations were, they were by far exceeded.' The work 
performed was the Heillg for 2 choirs (JVq 217). Cf. Miesner, l.c. 


the subscription concerts he gave in Hamburg, in which he appeared as 
outstanding soloist or conductor. 1 Also of vital importance were the hours 
he spent improvising on his favourite Silbermann clavichord. Various 
contemporaries have given us enthusiastic reports on these improvisa- 
tions, and they all leave in our mind the picture of a person possessed. 'In 
his free phantasies he was quite unique and inexhaustible. For hours he 
would lose himself in his ideas and in an ocean of modulations. His soul 
seemed to be far removed, the eyes swam as though in some ravishing 
dream, the lower lip drooped over his chin, his face and form bowed 
almost inanimately over the instrument.' 2 

It is interesting to note that both Friedemann and Emanuel felt this 
tremendous urge towards improvisation, in which they both excelled. But 
while the exaltation thus produced only increased Friedemann's inability 
to cope with reality, Emanuel had the rare capacity of keeping the two 
spheres of his existence neatly separated. The hours of ecstasy at the clavi- 
chord were vital to him, as they provided an outlet for his innermost 
artistic yearnings, but after such an experience he was able and willing to 
resume the extremely skilful handling of his every-day problems. In this 
dualism of his personality ensuring artistic as well as material success, 
Emanuel Bach had much in common with Joseph Haydn, to whom the 
elder master's works provided a decisive stimulus. We can well imagine 
how much they would have enjoyed each other's company, chuckling 
over the humorous sides of life, for which both possessed a keen percep- 
tion, and delightedly sampling unusual foods, such as the larks that 
Emanuel had sent by the three-score from Leipzig. But they were never 
to meet, and young Haydn, rapturously playing Emanuel's Sonatas night 
after night on his worm-eaten clavier and discovering a new world in them, 
could not guess that this revered composer was an eminently practical 
man, shrewd, even hard in his business dealings. 

Reports have been preserved which present Emanuel as a disagreeable 
miser, but these may be classed, together with stories of Friedemann's 
drunken bouts, as among the legends spread by the enemies whom such 
outstanding personalities were bound to make. The deprecatory remarks 
by Reichardt, for instance, may well have been caused by some un- 
pleasantness which arose between Emanuel and the younger musician 

1 In 1773 he performed Handel's 'Messiah'; however, this was not, as it is sometimes 
claimed, the first performance of the work in Germany. Thomas Arne had already 
produced it in Hamburg on April 15, 1772. Cf. Sittard, 'Geschichte des Musik- und 
Konzertwesens in Hamburg,' 1898. 

2 Cf. Reichardt's Autobiography in 'Allgemeine Musikzeitung,' 16. Jhg. Another 
description is provided by Burney, I.e. 

C. P. EMANUEL IN HAMBURG (1768-1788) 349 

after the latter had contracted various debts. There is no doubt that 
Emanuel was as scrupulous in money matters as his father had been. He 
was brought up in a tradition of strict economy in financial matters and 
Hamburg's peculiar atmosphere further increased such tendencies. Thus 
he became an excellent business man, well able to achieve the best possible 
results by the sale of his works. Of any real avariciousness, however, we 
have no proof. 1 'If Bach is miserly,' wrote a friend, G. F. E. Schonborn, 
to the Danish musician, N. Schiorring, 'I believe that his wife inoculated 
him with this habit, or rather that her failings are charged to his debit.' 
We have no means of checking this statement, but we might mention that 
in Johanna Maria Bach's social sphere the fate of women widowed in 
old age was a very sad one. The salary stopped a few months after the 
husband's death, insurances or pensions did not exist, and the scanty 
savings that a musician could as a rule accumulate were used up all 
too quickly. Naturally Emanuel's wife was anxious to be spared such 

Like his father, Emanuel seems to have enjoyed a pleasant home life, 
but everything was on a more opulent scale than in the modest Thomas 
Cantorate. Burney praises the 'elegantly served dinner' he ate at Emanuel's 
house, and the beautiful, large music room, furnished with pictures of 
more than 150 eminent musicians, which his host had collected. We 
should like to think that the lovely room with its many books which we 
see in a drawing the painter August Stottrup made of Emanuel, Sturm, and 
himself (111. XVI) is one in Emanuel's home. The portrait of the musician 
standing next to the pastor, Sturm, clearly reveals the dualism in Emanuel's 
nature. This elegantly dressed, rather stoutish person is very much a man 
of the world, enjoying the good things in life; the agile hands seem to 
express their owner's caustic wit and his temperamental way of speaking. 
The face, however, is full of longing and a poignant sadness. This sadness 
is also visible in a portrait painted in 1773 by the composer's godson, his 
Meiningen kinsman, Johann Philipp Bach (111. XXII). 

In the following years an event in his own family greatly contributed 
to deepen the expression in Emanuel's eyes. The Hamburg music director 
had only three children: two sons and one daughter. It was one of the 

1 A letter Emanuel wrote to Forkel on June 20, 1777, has been repeatedly quoted as 
proof of his parsimoniousness. Telling Forkel of his anxiety about his younger son's 
grave illness in Rome, Emanuel mentions that he had to send him 50 ducats and would 
have to pay another 200 thalers to the doctors. We should not forget, however, that this 
was a business letter starting with an appeal to Forkel to collect, as rapidly as possible, 
subscriptions for Emanuel's new sonatas. The mention of the heavy expenditures for the 
ailing son was made to increase Forkel's zeal for obtaining these subscriptions. 


tricks of a malicious fate that neither of the sons wished to be a musician. 
This had been a great blow to Emanuel, to whom the unbroken line of 
Bach musicians was a source of pride and delight, and who lovingly 
assembled material pertaining to the family history. But he had to get 
used to seeing the elder son become a lawyer, the younger a painter, and 
none of his children with offspring of their own to carry on the Bach 
tradition. His only consolation was in the decided aptitude which the 
second son showed for painting. When an authority like Adam Friedrich 
Oeser, the friend of Winckelmann and teacher of Goethe, had confirmed 
this, Emanuel felt great hopes for the youth's future, hopes that were 
cruelly crushed when the son, while working in Rome, succumbed to a 
fever at the age of 30. Emanuel announced this in a letter to his friend and 
publisher, Immanuel Breitkopf: 'Stunned by the tragic news of my 
beloved son's death in Rome, I can hardly put down these words. I know 
you will pity me. May God preserve you from similar pain!' 

This happened in 1778, and thenceforward Death was a frequent 
visitor in the family. In 1781 there died Elisabeth Altnikol (cf. p. 200), a 
half-sister, for whom Emanuel cared greatly, and to whom he had 
frequently given financial help. A year later followed Sebastian's youngest 
son, the brilliant 'London Bach,' Emanuel's former pupil; while in 1784 
it was Friedemann's turn. Emanuel himself had been seriously ill in 1782 
when, as he wrote to Breitkopf, 'I barely escaped death, as the obnoxious 
influenza wanted to choke my throat.' He never recovered his strength 
and six years later, on December 14, 1788, he passed away, aged 74 years. 
The following day the 'Hamburger unpartheiischer Korrespondent' pub- 
lished an Obituary. 'He was one of the greatest theoretical and practical 
musicians,' maintained the author (probably Carl Friedrich Cramer), 
'creator of the true clavier technique . . . unmatched on this instrument. 
Music loses in him one of its greatest ornaments and to musicians the name 
of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach will always be a holy one. In his personal 
intercourse he was a lively, cheerful man, full of spirit and wit, gay and 
merry. . . .' 

Emanuel's eldest son survived his father by only four months, dying 
at the age of 44. Now only two women were left, the widow and her 
daughter. They handled Emanuel's business as best they could, and when 
Frau Bach died in 1795, her daughter made a public announcement that 
she would carry on the paternal business, supplying the works of her 
father and grandfather. This she did up to 1804, when her name disappears 
from the Hamburg address books. During her lifetime, Emanuel's huge 
collection of music and pictures was sold by auction, and most of it came, 

C. P. EMANUEL IN HAMBURG (1768-I788) 351 

through Georg Polchau, librarian of the Berlin Singakademie, into the 
Prussian capital. 

The catalogue for the auction has been preserved and constitutes an 
important historical document. 1 Most of the Bachiana which have sur- 
vived were in Emanuel's possession. Proudly he used to exhibit to his 
visitors portraits of Hans Bach, 'the jester/ Ambrosius, his grandfather, and 
one of his own father painted in oils by Haussmann, 2 as well as the music 
of his ancestors, partly copied by his father. All these he treasured and 
handed down in good condition to posterity. Furthermore, if we take 
into consideration the fact that the family chronicle with Emanuel's own 
additions, the account of the Bachs' yearly meetings, and many data con- 
cerning Sebastian's teaching methods, character and works were all 
supplied to Forkel by the Hamburg music director, we realize how much 
the Bach research owes to Emanuel's deep family loyalty. No one who 
reads the loving comments on his father which he sent to Forkel in the 
years 1774-75 can doubt the son's attachment to Sebastian. In his youth, 
before he had quite established his own style, he may, out of a natural 
tendency towards artistic self-preservation, have avoided conceding to 
himself the full extent of his father's greatness. Later, however, he allowed 
himself to become fully aware of Sebastian's artistic stature. Emanuel was 
often blamed for offering for sale in September 1756 the plates of the Art 
of the Fugue. To us, who look on this sublime work with the greatest 
reverence, an act of this kind seems to reveal a sad lack of understanding 
and of filial piety. It should not be forgotten, however, that Emanuel 
decided on this action after the great war had broken out. He had to con- 
sider the possibility of a quick evacuation and felt anxious not to have a 
hundredweight of plates among his possessions. On the other hand, when 
peace was restored, it was he who was responsible for the publication of 
Sebastian's four-part chorales. 

What Emanuel truly thought of his father is revealed in a most 
interesting letter to the editor of the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie pub- 
lished anonymously in 1788. 3 D. Plamenac proved in a fine study 4 that 
only Emanuel can have been the author of this penetrating comparison of 
Bach and Handel which was written in answer to a passage in Burney's 
account of the life of Handel. It reveals not only inside information on 

1 Reproduced by Miesner in BJ, 1938, 1939, 1940-48. 

2 According to recent research it seems likely that this was the copy Haussmann made 
in 1748, owned at present by Mr. William H. Scheide, Princeton, N.J., U.S.A. 
Cf. Raupach, 'Das wahre Bildnis J. S. Bachs,' Wolfenbuttel, 1950. 

3 Letter of February 27, 1788, Vol. 81, p. 295, Berlin, 1788. 

4 Cf. MQ, October 1949. 


Sebastian's life available only to a member of the family, but also the 
deepest reverence and understanding of his art. Emanuel becomes parti- 
cularly eloquent when he, the great master of keyboard music, discusses 
his father's contributions to this form. After praising Sebastian's fugues, 
which he finds superior to those of Handel, he continues: 'But what 
virtues Bach's other clavier works possess ! What vitality, originality, and 
ingratiating melody do we find in them even to-day, when the singing 
style has been so greatly refined! What invention, what variety in different 
styles, the elaborate and the galant, the strict and the free! . . . This one 
presenting the utmost difficulties to skilled hands, that one in a style easily 
to be followed by the somewhat experienced amateur. How many able 
clavier players have received their training from these works! Was he not 
the creator of quite a novel treatment of keyboard instruments? Did he 
not bestow on them specific melodies, expression, and a singing style? He, 
who possessed the most profound knowledge of all contrapuntal arts (and 
even artifices) understood how to make art subservient to beauty.' 


In his compositions Emanuel was stimulated rather than overawed by 
Sebastian's work. Only during his first creative period, the apprenticeship 
in Leipzig and Frankfurt (before 1738), did the son actually copy the 
father. For this phase we may take quite literally Emanuel's statement in his 
autobiography that Sebastian was the only teacher he ever had. Although 
most of these very early works were later revised by the composer, the 
frequent use of sequences, the rhythmic uniformity of the compositions 
and their heavy Baroque cadences follow the idiom of the Thomas Cantor. 

When at the age of 24 Emanuel came to Berlin, his second creative 
period started and was to last until 1768. In this period of transition he soon 
established a new style of instrumental music, full of expressive power and 
passion. Even in the first great products of this period, the Prussian 
Sonatas, the subjective and highly emotional idiom of Empfindsamkeit 
(sensibility) is clearly noticeable. Emanuel adopted for his instrumental 
works elements from the opera seria of his time, such as recitatives, 
ariosos,and certain forms of aria accompaniments; 1 sometimes his sonatas 
appear like keyboard transcriptions of dramatic compositions. He had 
learned from his father that transplanting musical idioms from one medium 

1 Burney attributes this innovation particularly to the influence that Hasse's operas 
exercised on Emanuel. Cf. 'A General History of Music,' IV, p. 454. 


xvi. C. P. E. Bach, Pastor Sturm and the Artist. Drawing by Andreas Stottrup 

Jp^U Sip^p^ .]£*it-._w fffh-^ 

' ,!f^i W'«%| k 'fij^ #S * Jfi-vU, r . | .^if^vl^j^ 


Ail -4 

- ^# ■ 

i ^/-^ If! 

feps pa «* sfem i j i j*-l«» 

xvii. Autograph of a 'Heilig' by C. P. E. Bach. In the last three measures 
starts a quotation from Johann Sebastian's 'Magnificat' ('Sicut locutus est') 


to another could produce outstanding results. Nevertheless his technique 
of transferring elements of the dramatic vocal style into keyboard music 
had never before been used to such an extent and with equal success. 1 

Although Emanuel adopted the new language of Empfindsamkeit so 
enthusiastically, conservative elements are by no means lacking in his 
works. We still find in them his father's use of sequences; Emanuel em- 
ployed the stepwise ascending and descending bass-lines of the Baroque 
period and, most of all, he maintained the idea of developing whole move- 
ments from a single subject. When the need arose, he wrote intricate 
canons and fugues, and while reserving his more daring experiments for 
his favourite instrument, the clavier, he fashioned his great choral work, 
the Magnificat of 1749, after Sebastian's composition on the same text. 
From his father Emanuel also inherited the pedagogic interests and talents. 
These, together with the tendency for theoretical speculation then pre- 
vailing in Berlin, induced him to publish his 'Essay on the True Art of 
Playing Keyboard Instruments,' one of the finest works of musical instruc- 
tion and theory ever written. The style galant, which held so great a 
fascination for Emanuel's generation, meant almost as little to him as it 
did to his father and elder brother. As a rule it is confined to compositions 
of minor value written to please the King. 

During the years Emanuel spent in Berlin, his artistic personality 
developed fully, and gradually the limitations of his position and the 
conservative attitude of his colleagues and his patron became unbearable 
to him. He was glad to exchange the narrowness of his activities in the 
Prussian capital for the greater spiritual freedom in the Hanse city. In his 
third creative period (Hamburg 1769-88) the quality of his output reached 
a climax. The six mighty collections of sonatas, rondos and fantasias 'for 
connoisseurs and amateurs,' which mark the peak of his keyboard music, 
were then published. Moreover, most of his choral compositions and his 
great symphonies were products of the Hamburg years. In the meantime, 
contemporary composers such as Gassmann, Haydn and Mozart, had 
adopted Emanuel's language not only in their clavier music, but also in 
quartets and symphonies. Bach, whose fame was constantly growing, felt 
the responsibilities of leadership. Though his works written in Hamburg 
speak the highly emotional language of the Sturm und Drang (Storm and 
Stress) dominating the literature of the period, they reveal at the same 
time a supreme mastery of all technical problems. The composer showed 

1 The occasional use of recitatives in keyboard music, however, antedates the work 
of Emanuel. Johann Krieger, Johann Kuhnau, Sebastian Bach and others employed it in 
some of their works. 


but little interest in, or understanding for, the steady growth of classical 
feeling in music. On the other hand their passionate subjectivism links 
these Hamburg works with the newly rising trends of romanticism. 

Compositions for the clavier form the core of Emanuel's production. In 
his lifetime more than a hundred sonatas, sonatinas, rondos, and fantasias 
were printed, together with an almost equal number of short character 
pieces, altogether about two thirds of what he wrote in this field. His con- 
temporaries saw in Emanuel primarily the keyboard virtuoso and com- 
poser. Even in our days, most pieces by Emanuel available in modern 
editions are either solo works for clavier or compositions in which the 
keyboard instrument has an important part to perform. 

A good example of Emanuel's youthful style is furnished by a Sonata 
in d (Wq 65/3) written in Leipzig in 1732. 1 In its first movement, an 
Allegro molto, the continuously repeated sixteenth motion in the right 
hand, sparingly supported by the bass, gives the impression of a Baroque 
'solo,' accompanied by basso continuo. The slow middle movement seems 
to be modelled on the lines of Sebastian's Italian Concerto. In the son's 
work, too, solo sections alternate with tuttis of the full body of sound. 
However, the frequent use of the sentimental parallel thirds and sixths 
points to a new artistic conception. The finale in strict two-part style has 
the character of a gay Gigue with imitations. 

Emanuel's clavier works written in Berlin display a very different 
aspect. The very first movement of the famous 6 Prussian Sonatas (JVq 
48), which were printed in 1742 with a dedication to the King, has an old- 
fashioned beginning resembling a two-part invention. On the other hand 
the classical sonata-allegro form with a contrasting second subject, full 
development, and complete recapitulation is to be found here. The 
following Andante movement appears almost like an opera scene without 

7 * 81 Andante 


text. How passionate is the bold skip of a diminished octave in its second 
bar (Ex. 81): and what wealth of powerful emotions is unfolded in the 

1 The work was revised in Berlin in 1744. 

c. p. emanuel's clavier works (1738-1768) 355 

two 'secco' recitatives inserted into the arioso sections, for which the 
composer even provided the kind of basses customary in vocal music 
(Ex. 82). It is significant that in this movement which starts and ends in f, 



no signature is used, in order to facilitate the notation of the quick key 
changes. The third movement of the Sonata is more conventional in form; 
it is a Vivace, in which the high tension of the Andante is resolved in care- 
free gaiety. All through this set and the 6 Wurttemherg Sonatas (Wq 49) 
published in 1744, are found the utterances of a revolutionary composer, 
who expressed emotions hitherto absent from keyboard music. Some of 
the most significant features of Emanuel's style are: a daring harmonic 
language with incisive dissonances and stunning chord-combinations; 
dramatic pauses, unexpected rests, alterations in tempo, 1 and sudden 
changes between major and minor modes, an effect often increased by 
varying dynamics and the use of different registers (Ex. 83). Typical of 

„ ., C.T.E.Bach.„ Przissian So-naia" li°lT. 

Vivace Hi "| 

J) tr 



jj j~ji 


»— 1 



V ' t 1 — 




the turbulent spirit of the composer are passages which appear to imitate 
orchestral sounds, as, for instance, in the first movement of the sixth 
Wurttemberg Sonata. Peculiar effects of colour are achieved by placing 
the two hands at a great distance from each other, thus producing a 'thin- 
ness' of sound which gives the music a transcendental character. 2 

Quite often it suited Emanuel to build a whole movement out of 
elements presented in the first measures. At the same time there is a 

1 In his 'Essay' (Part I, 3-28) Emanuel recommends for the Adagio in his sixth 
Wiirttemberg Sonata a 'gradual and gentle acceleration to be followed shordy afterwards, 
by a sleepy ritardando.' 

2 In the 19th century this peculiarity of Emanuel's style was completely misunder- 
stood, and in his editions Hans v. Biilow found it necessary to thicken and coarsen the 
transparent texture of this music. 


noticeable tendency to start the elaboration of the subject soon after its 
first statement, before the traditional development section is reached. It is 
interesting that these principles of a more retrospective character were to 
achieve tremendous importance for the works of Haydn and Beethoven, 
while Mozart, who preferred dualistic contrasts within his Sonata move- 
ments, was less susceptible to them. 

No other work contributed so greatly to its author's fame as Emanuel's 
Versuch iiber die wahre Art das Clavier %u spielen ('Essay on the True Art 
of Playing Keyboard Instruments' 1 ) published by the composer himself. 
The first part, printed in 1753, was reissued three times, and the second 
part published in 1762 twice in Bach's lifetime. The 'Essay' is mainly con- 
cerned with keyboard instruments, among which the expressive clavichord, 
particularly suited to the performance of emotional music, was closest to 
Emanuel's heart; but he was too broadminded and too practical, narrowly 
to limit his discussions. Not only the clavierist but any musician can benefit 
from the fine craftsmanship and clear logical thinking revealed in the work. 

In this manual written after Sebastian's death, it is noteworthy how 
closely the son followed in the father's footsteps. For instance, in the 
chapter on Fingering he adopted Sebastian's use of the thumb, adding a 
wealth of important details, and he even did not completely discard his 
father's old-fashioned crossing of the 3rd over the 4th finger. Again, when 
dealing with ornaments and embellishment, Emanuel continued along the 
lines of the Clavierbuchlein of 1720, explaining at greater length trills, 
turns, mordents, etc. Thus the necessary basis was laid for a correct 
execution of Emanuel's own compositions, in which ornaments were 
never used merely to decorate a tune, but always formed an essential part 
of its melodic life. The writer's conceptions of the thorough bass and 
intervals were also firmly founded on his teacher's methods. Both rejected 
the theoretical and mathematical aspects of Rameau's famous 'Traite 
d'Harmonie' Father and son alike looked at the problem as teachers 
anxious to convey to growing musicians their own practical knowledge. 
Possibly the most individual section of the 'Essay' is the last chapter of 
the first part. In dealing with the problems of performance the master of 
Empfindsamkeit expressed his artistic creed: technical proficiency is not 
sufficient for the perfect execution of music; the player must transmit the 
whole emotional content of the composition to his audience. 

Altogether, this is not a book of speculation, but the attempt of a 
composer and educator to guide his students in a practical manner to 

1 The work is available in an English translation with annotations, and a valuable 
ntroduction by W. J. Mitchell, New York, 1949. 

c. p. emanuel's clavier works (1738-1768) 357 

better musicianship. It displays a freshness of approach and a clear 
simplicity of diction that will make the 'Essay' live long after the many 
similar books of the time have been forgotten. 

To illustrate his point of view, Emanuel added in the edition of 1753 
eighteen compositions which he called Probestiicke ('sample pieces'; Wq 
63)9 grouped together in six Sonatas. As if to make up for a certain in- 
evitable pedantry in the textbook, he displayed in these examples all the 
shades of his emotional palette. No two of the movements of each separate 
Sonata are in the same key, and their subjective nature is stressed by such 
unusual headings as 'Adagio assai mesto e sostenuto' or 'Allegretto arioso 
ed amoroso.' The conclusion and climax of the whole set is formed by 
the beautiful Fantasia in c. In order to ensure complete rhythmic flexi- 
bility, Emanuel even omitted the bar lines in its improvisatory first and 
last sections. The striking emotional intensity of this Fantasia was felt so 
keenly by his contemporaries that Emanuel's friend, the poet W. Gersten- 
berg, made two attempts at transforming the purely instrumental number 

Tfein, -nem die ern-sie ho - ..he Ge - l 

into a kind of cantata by adding recitatives, one of which was based on 
Hamlet's monologue, the other on the last words of Socrates emptying 
the cup of poison (Ex. 84). 


In 1760 Emanuel dedicated to Princess Amalia, the sister of the King, 
six Sonaten mit veranderten Reprisen ('with altered restatements'; Wq 50). 
They reveal his conviction that embellishments and ornaments form an 
essential part of the melody, and that it is not for performers arbitrarily to 
add ornaments in repetitions, according to the fashion of the time. He 
maintained this practice in many of his later compositions as well, as the 
following example from a Sonata printed in 1770 may illustrate (Ex. 85). 

•E * 85 Sonata from „ Vielerlei " 


Among the great number of Sonatas for keyboard instruments written 
in Berlin are six Sonatas for the organ without pedal (Wq 70). Burney's 
report that Emanuel was not interested in the organ is fully confirmed by 
these works. Little in them suggests that they were intended for the king 
of instruments. This is ordinary clavier music, only of a slightly more 
conventional character. 1 Also the Concerto in C for unaccompanied 
clavier (Wq 112/1) published in 1765 is retrospective in its basic character. 
It follows closely the example of similar works by Sebastian and Friede- 
mann, emphasizing the contrast between solo and tutti. Like Sebastian's 
Italian Concerto and Friedemann's Concerto in G it has the aspects of a 
keyboard arrangement of an imaginary orchestral work. 

Every element of Emanuel's style in the Berlin period reappears in 
maturer and more concentrated form in the composer's masterwork, the 
six collections fur Kenner und Liebhaber ('for connoisseurs and amateurs'; 
Wq 55-59, 61) published between 1779 and 1787. Here Emanuel displays 
the sureness of touch and the virtuosity of the mature master. Most of 
these compositions are sonatas which, as a rule, consist of three move- 
ments in closely related keys; but when the expressive content demands it 
the composer does not hesitate to use as unusual a key combination as 

1 Emanuel's only sonata for organ with pedal (JVq 70/7) is of a similar nature. 
To his pseudo-organ compositions belong also the 6 fugues (JVq 119) written between 
1754-63, mosdy for his learned friend, Marpurg's, collections. The compositions, while 
showing thorough contrapuntal knowledge, clearly display the composer's indifference 
towards the form of the instrumental fugue. 

c. p. emanuel's clavier works (1768-1788) 359 

G-g-E for the successive movements. Occasionally the three movements 
shrink to two, connected by a few transitional measures, and even a 
complete integration of all movements into a single unit occurs, antici- 
pating 19th-century tendencies. Beginning with the second collection, 
Rondos join the Sonatas. These compositions, which were particular 
favourites with Emanuel's contemporaries, are based on brief and decep- 
tively simple subjects. The composer presents his ideas in ever new trans- 
formations, changing their pitch, dissolving them melodically, har- 
monizing them in different ways, and introducing unexpected rests and 
rubatos. His sudden changes between pianissimo and fortissimo, his 
crescendi ending up in piano, his diminuendi leading to a forte, as well 
as his ingenuity in offering ever new surprises to the delighted and amused 
listener clearly reveal an exquisite sense of humour. These rondos are the 
musical counterpart of his witty and spirited conversations, which made 
the great intellects of his time seek Emanuel's company. Into the three last 
sets Emanuel inserted Fantasias. Here we get a glimpse of what his im- 
provisations, which made so tremendous an impression on his listeners, 
must have been like. Most of these compositions resemble in character the 
Fantasia in c, their recitatives and ariosos not following a strict rhythmic 
pattern. Only the last Fantasia in C presents a single idea in ever-changing 
garb, thus approaching Emanuel's Rondos. 

In both his Berlin and his Hamburg years Emanuel wrote a substantial 
number of short clavier pieces. They frequently appear to be miniature 
editions of the larger forms, reduced not only in size but also in technical 
difficulty. Thus while the 6 Sonatas accompanying the first edition of the 
'Essay' were most ambitious in their whole conception, the 6 Sonatinas, 
which the composer added in 1786 to a new edition of the book (JVq 63) 
are completely unpretentious. Each consists of only a single movement 
and rarely has more than 30 measures. Technically they are within the 
reach of any player of medium abilities. However, in spite of their almost 
aphoristic character, they are as carefully worked out as his larger com- 
positions, and the heart-felt little Largo in E (JVq 63/8), for instance, is a 
piece of almost classical poise. 

Among these short clavier pieces are numerous Solfeggii, prelude-like 
little fantasias, usually developed out of a single motive. It is interesting 
to compare the well-known Solfeggii in c (JVq 117/2), published in 1770, 
with similar compositions by Sebastian. While the piece is obviously 
based on forms the father liked to use, the strongly throbbing emotional 
life belongs to a younger generation. 

Many Minuets (often appearing in pairs) and Polaccas are to be found 


in this group, the latter being free of the formal, even melancholy- 
character they assumed for Friedemann. These are gay dances in 3/4 time 
approaching in character the polonaise of the 19th century. 

To a special category belong the musical portraits and other pieces of 
programme music with descriptive titles (JVq 117). Emanuel gives us 
delightful little pictures of some of his lady-friends. A graceful Allegro 
in 6/8 time describes 'La Gleim' (cf. p. 342), a ceremonious minuet 'La 
Lott'; serious and melancholy (probably on account of the loss of her 
children) is 'La Stahl'; saucy and temperamental 'La Bohmer.' 'La 
Journaliere' with its gay pralltrillers and 'La Capricieuse' with its merrily 
skipping dotted rhythms portray true daughters of Eve. 'La Complaisante' 
makes the listener wish to meet a lady so anxious to please. One of the 
most mature of these character-pieces is the 'Farewell to my Silbermann 
Clavichord' {Wq 66), composed in 1781 in the form of a rondo. A pupil 
of Emanuel, Ewald v. Grotthus, received from the composer a clavier 
made by the great Silbermann. Bach accompanied his instrument with a 
composition, thus proving, as he wrote to Grotthus, that 'it is also possible 
to write lamenting rondos.' Actually this composition is a stirring and 
passionate piece, growing out of the germ-cell of a single main subject, in 
which Emanuel's attachment to the clavichord finds heart-felt expression. 1 

In his Chamber Music Emanuel was not as progressive as in his clavier 
works. It seems likely that the first compositions the young artist wrote 
in this field attracted the attention of the Prussian Crown Prince and 
secured Emanuel the position he was to hold for almost thirty years. 
During this time most of Emanuel's chamber music was written for the 
King and his court, and the increasingly conservative leanings of the 
monarch forced the composer to renounce in them the more daring 
of his experiments. The situation changed when Emanuel moved to 
Hamburg. The former restrictions no longer existed, and the composer 
produced a number of instrumental ensemble works, almost equal in 
perfection to his keyboard music. 

To the first period belong a number of 'solos' and 'trios,' as the com- 
poser called them in the traditional manner. The 'solos' are for (trans- 
verse) flute and bass or for oboe and bass; the 'trios' for flute, violin and 
bass or for violin and cembalo obbligato. Both in the choice of these forms 

1 Grotthus' musical answer 'Joy at receiving the Silbermann Clavier' is artistically 
of little significance. 

c. p. emanuel's chamber music (1738-1768) 361 

and in their contents, Emanuel reveals himself as his father's faithful 
disciple. We find among these works sonatas in the four movements of 
the Baroque period, canonic episodes, concerto forms, and the whole 
harmonic language and bass lines of Sebastian's music. 

In the chamber music works written in Berlin, the dependence on the 
past recedes only slowly. Again Emanuel writes 'solos' and 'trios'; in 
many of them the same key is preserved throughout, a feature pointing 
back to the suite of the 17th century. The different versions existing of 
most of the 'trios' also point towards the Baroque period. The lovely work 
in G, of 1754, for instance, is once scored for 2 violins and bass (JVq 157), 
then for flute, violin, and bass (Wq 152) and again for cembalo and flute 
(JVq 85). 1 On the other hand a leaning towards the style galant finds 
expression in the frequent prescription of the word gra-fioso in the tempo 
indications. To his former combinations of instruments Emanuel now 
adds some new ones, such as viola da gamba and bass, or harp and bass. 
The constant work with the King's excellent musicians helped to 
familiarize the composer with the technical possibilities of the instruments, 
and often to use them in a truly idiomatic manner. His viola da gamba 
sonatas, for instance, introduce arpeggios and even triple stops, while 
large skips in the solo parts of the flute works allowed the august per- 
former to show off his technical skill. 

It is significant that a Trio (Wq 161/1) of a clearly experimental 
character was not written for the King, but was dedicated to the young 
Count Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe, the employer of Emanuel's half- 
brother, Friedrich. A definite programme dealing with different tempera- 
ments underlies this music, a subject popular in the 18th century. 2 The 
composer explains it in his preface with these words: 'An attempt has been 
made to express as far as possible through instruments, what otherwise is 
done much more easily through the voice and words. This is supposed 
to be a conversation between a Sanguine and a Melancholic who . . . 
endeavour to convince each other, until by the end of the second move- 
ment . . . the Melancholic gives in and adopts the other's point of view.' 
Emanuel portrays the argument through an intensive development of his 
subjects, and explains his procedure in a running commentary, using 
letters to refer to individual places in the score. He alludes, for instance, to 
a passage in the first movement with these words: 'At (h) Sanguine tries to 

1 Similarly the 2 trios printed in Bach's lifetime {Wq 161, published 175 1) have, 
on the tide page, an indication that one of the two melody instruments might be taken over 
by the right hand of the cembalist. 

2 Beethoven still had in his string quartet op. 18/6 a finale entitled 'La Malinconia/ 


convert Melancholic. The latter begins to give in, but soon stops (i) and 
has to take a full rest (k) to find his own self again (1). Impatiently San- 
guine interrupts him, mockingly aping his ideas (m) ' (Ex. 86). 



Q.,— — ® — 


(Jicltncholicus) _ 

Although other dramatic dialogues are found in Emanuel's chamber 
music, he never again attempted to write a literary programme to a com- 
position of his own, and in later years, even admitted the weakness of this 
early experiment. 

On the whole the chamber music of the Berlin years displays the 
characteristics of a transitional phase, when the composer felt inclined to 
try out the most varied devices. Side by side with compositions based on 
the Baroque conception of using two melody instruments equal in range 
and importance, we find trios in which the rigid balance between the upper 
voices is abandoned. In Wq 156 and 160 for 2 violins and bass, the second 
violin is clearly subordinated to the first. It usually accompanies in parallel 
thirds and sixths, never competing on equal terms with the leading voices. 
The same procedure may be noticed in the Sinfonia a cembalo obbligato e 
violino (Wq 74), in which the right hand of the clavier dominates, while 
the violin is used mainly as a filling and accompanying voice. All three 
compositions reject polyphony and the concertante style and tend towards 
the later type of clavier sonata with the accompaniment of a violin. 

In the last twenty years of Emanuel's life his chamber music presents 
a very different picture. The Baroque combination of two melody voices 
and bass completely disappears, and chamber music employing a continuo 
part to be realized by the performer is hardly to be found. The composer's 
output includes several Duos, Trios, and 'Quartets' (Wq 79-80, 89-91, 
93-95) for clavier obbligato with the accompaniment of string and, 
occasionally, wind instruments. In the works for clavier and violin or 
for clavier, violin and violoncello, compositions clearly meant for 
amateurs, the keyboard instrument has constantly the lead; the violin as a 
rule doubles the melody, the 'cello the bass, and either may be used to fill 
in a middle part. Yet, in spite of the small role assigned to them, the 

c. p. emanuel's chamber music (1768-1788) 363 

omission of these instruments would deprive the works of attractive 
effects of colour. 

In some chamber music works the composer entrusts important tasks 
to the flute, the bassoon, the viola, and, in particular, the clarinet, the 
favourite of his later years. For all that, the clavier always stands in the 
centre of the Hamburg chamber music. Its part no longer results from the 
more or less mechanical combination of a violin melody with a supporting 
bass, as was the rule in the Berlin 'trios'; dynamic contrasts are now widely 
employed, and these chamber music works gradually become imbued with 
the strongly personal and unconventional character of Emanuel's key- 
board compositions. The second and third of the 'Clavier-Sonatas accom- 
panied by violin and violoncello' (Wq 91, published in 1777) contain 
gems unforgettable in their poignancy and emotional intensity. It is signi- 
ficant that the rondo, which had brought Emanuel so great a success in his 
works for solo clavier, now also appears in his chamber music. Its natural 
place is obviously the third movement, but in the highly unorthodox com- 
position for cembalo obbligato, flute and viola (Wq 93), written in the 
year of Emanuel's death, it is used even for the first movement. This is a 
deeply felt, and most expressive composition, in which beauty of content 
is balanced by complete technical perfection. Rhapsodic elements are 
conspicuous in many of Emanuel's late chamber music works, and one of 
the finest Fantasias he wrote (Wq 80, composed in 1787) was conceived 
for clavier with the accompaniment of a violin. The composer headed it 
with the significant words sehr traurig und gan{ langsam. C. P. E. Backs 
Empfindungen ('very sadly and quite slowly; C. P. E. Bach's emotions'). 
Works of this kind (cf. also the poignant middle movement in Wq 95) 
seem to lead right to the threshold of Romanticism. On the other hand 
there is clear evidence that, near the end of his life, Emanuel was also under 
the influence of a composer who had learned a great deal from him in 

earlier years. The last movement of the 'Quartet' in D for harpsichord, flute 
and viola (Wq 94) is spiritually akin to works by Joseph Haydn 1 (Ex. 87). 

1 Cf. E. F. Schmid's valuable study 'C. P. E. Bach und seine Kammermusik,' p. 147. 


Short compositions of little technical difficulty, which are equal in 
craftsmanship and beauty to his larger works, are also to be found in 
Emanuel's chamber music. He wrote these precious miniatures for two to 
seven instruments. Particularly charming are the 12 little pieces for two 
flutes (or violins) and clavier, printed in 1770 (JVq 82). They consist of 
brief character sketches, usually of not more than sixteen measures, for all 
three instruments, alternating with movements in which the cembalo is 
not used. The latter are particularly attractive, but also trios, such as the 
sentimental Allegro (No. 1), the Minuetto in the style galant (No. 5), or 
the irresistible Polacca (No. 8), are of delightful grace and simplicity. 
Equally important are the six undated little sonatas for clavier, clarinet and 
bassoon (JVq 92), most of which also exist in arrangements for seven 
wind instruments. Emanuel achieved through soloistic treatment of the 
instruments a transparent chamber music style hardly surpassed in any of 
his larger works. 

The composer's attitude in his clavier concertos is similar to that 
revealed in his chamber music. To the first period belong three concertos 
for cembalo and strings written in Leipzig or Frankfurt and revised 
in Berlin (JVq 1-3). Tutti and soli are short and supplement each other 
rather than compete in concerto manner. Contrapuntal texture is often 
used for the orchestral sections, and the accompaniments to the cembalo 
parts are rather powerful. Although the young composer is anxious to 
equip the soli with all the fashionable brilliance, the clavier technique dis- 
closes his lack of experience. A leaning towards the style galant is un- 
mistakable, yet at the same time the son resorts repeatedly to a close 
imitation of his father's style. 

The 38 concertos written in the Berlin years (JVq 4-40, 46) 1 conform to 
each other in basic elements. They are always in three movements, fast- 
slow-fast, each of them containing from three to five tutti. These ritornels 
differ widely in length; in their most expansive form they consist of an 
energetic first, and a contrasting, more tender second section, a group of 
sequences, and a coda resuming the ideas of the first section. The solos, 
which are frequently interrupted by short tutti episodes, are as long and 
even longer than the ritornels. They employ partly thematic material 
derived from the first tutti and partly new ideas, or else they accompany the 

1 A few more are preserved under Emanuel's name in old manuscripts, but their 
authenticity is not established. 

c. p. emanuel's clavier concertos 365 

orchestra with rich figurations. In movements with four ritornels the first 
solo has an exposition-like character, the second reminds us of a develop- 
ment, while the third restates ideas from the first two solos. In movements 
with five ritornels the two middle solos have the character of a development. 
All these features point towards the gradual transition from the old Vivaldi 
concerto form to the new sonata form. Although Emanuel's treatment of 
the solo instrument is growing more and more idiomatic, his style is not 
always appropriate to the clavier. It is worthy of notice that some of the 
concertos exist in versions in which the keyboard part is replaced by a 
stringed or a wind instrument. The Baroque practice of freely exchanging 
solo instruments in concertos obviously holds good for Sebastian's son. 
The Concerto in a of 1750 (Wq 26) for example, exists in three versions, 
for 'cello, flute, and harpsichord solo respectively. With minor changes in 
the figuration the composer cleverly adapts the part of the main instru- 
ment to the changing medium of woodwind, low-pitched string and key- 
board instrument. 1 

Among the numerous remarkable works, the deeply passionate and 
exciting Concerto in doi 1748 {Wq 23) with the wide skips at the begin- 
ning (Ex. 88) deserves mention. Schering rightly points out that in its 

P , . J J 


first and third movements a spirit reigns which reached its full growth in 
Beethoven's Vth and IXth symphonies. The middle movement of the 
Concerto in c of 1753 {Wq 31) is noteworthy. It contains instrumental 
recitatives of the solo instrument dramatically interrupted by the orchestra 
with a dynamic range from/*/* to^ and repeated changes of tempo from 
adagio to presto. This highly romantic movement appears as a kind 
of over-extended introduction to the finale which is meant to follow 

The Sonatinas {Wq 96-110) written between 1762 and 1764 may be 
considered as an attempt to leave the narrow confines of the Berlin musical 

1 Similarly the Harpsichord Concertos Wq 28, 29 also exist as flute and as 'cello 
concertos. Wq 39, 40 are to be found as oboe concertos. In Wq 34, 35 execution of the 
solo part on the organ is optional. At practically the same time (1756) Joseph Haydn wrote 
his concerto in C for organ or harpsichord with orchestra. 


school, and to become familiar with different artistic trends. In these com- 
positions which follow the style of the Austrian court composer, Wagen- 
seil, and of the young Haydn, Emanuel no longer attempts to produce 
real concertos. These are suite-like divertimenti with a prominent clavier 
part, preserving the same key throughout each composition. In these 
forms variety is as great as was the standardization in the older concertos. 
While Wq 96 consists only of a theme with variations and an extensive 
finale, Wq 109 has no less than eight movements, I and IV being identical, 
III and V as well as VI and VIII closely interrelated. Other Sonatinas are 
in three movements with the slow one at the beginning, or with fast tempi 
in all three movements. They are mostly scored for one or two cembali 
with strings, 2 flutes and 2 horns. Wq 109 in D for 2 cembali uses in addi- 
tion 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes and bassoon. As in the Austrian diverti- 
mento, a gay and carefree mood prevails; major modes dominate, a dance- 
like character is emphasized in many movements, and we find the direction 
'Alia Polacca' indicated among the finales. 

The result of Emanuel's studies is noticeable in the ten concertos for 
one clavier, and one for two claviers written in Hamburg (Wq 41-45, 47). 
They belong to the best the North German school produced in this sphere 
of music. None of them exists in a version for any other instrument, and 
accordingly the keyboard part is completely idiomatic. The accompanying 
orchestra is, as a rule, that of the Sonatinas. Most movements are lacking 
in any real ending and lead immediately into the next one. The unity thus 
created is also emphasized by other methods. In the Concerto in G, 
belonging to the fine set published in 1772 (Wq 43), the first and second 
movements use the same introduction. In the magnificent Concerto in c 
from the same group, the last movement even employs thematic material 
from the first. This work is the only Concerto of Emanuel's in four move- 
ments, the third being a Minuet as in Austrian symphonies. 

Fundamentally the old concerto form remains in force, but mighty 
inroads were made to meet the requirements of the new age. The plain 
song-form, the true rondo form which, unlike the Vivaldi form, always 
restates the main subject in the same key, and the classical sonata form with 
its basic dualistic and well-balanced construction left their imprint on 
these works. It is characteristic of the composer's progressive attitude 
that the second movement of the Concerto in F of 1772 replaces the 
traditional tutti at the beginning and end by unaccompanied soli of 
the clavier. Equally unorthodox is Emanuel's idea of writing out the 
cadenzas for all six concertos of the set, a method widely used in the 
19th century. 

c. p. emanuel's symphonies 367 

The attitude of the aged Emanuel towards the concerto is perhaps best 
revealed by the Double Concerto in E flat (Wq 47) composed in Ham- 
burg, possibly as late as 1788, the year of his death. It is written for two 
keyboard instruments, 1 one the old cembalo, the other the young forte- 
piano. Emanuel's feelings towards the latter were those of distrust. Al- 
though his father had used the fortepiano forty years earlier, Emanuel's 
Concerto in E flat is the only work in which he prescribed the instrument 
expressly. In its form the Double Concerto clearly reverts to the architec- 
ture of the Berlin years with its massive main tuttis, but the timid question 
uttered in piano by the violins at the beginning of the first movement is 
diametrically opposed to the traditional conception that a concerto ought 
to start with a forceful statement. This tutti also introduces a persuasive 
tune of the flutes in parallel thirds and sixths which has the character of a 
subsidiary subject in a sonata form, and the first idea of the finale has the 
sparkle of a composition by Haydn (Ex. 89). — Emanuel's last concertos, 


*m iir 1 lLlj 1 J -^ii cr 1 lLlt iujlt 1 cJJ-^ 


in which all stylistic elements of his earlier works were amalgamated, 
contributed much to the fame of their author; in Northern Germany they 
were performed long after Emanuel's death, and were superseded only 
by Beethoven's compositions in this field. 

No symphonies from Emanuel's first period are known. Eight com- 
positions were written in Berlin (Wq 173-81) which, like most works 
from this period of transition, exist in different versions. The one in e of 
1756, for instance, is preserved in a setting for strings only (Wq 177), 
another with horns, oboes and flutes (Wq 178), and a transcription for 
clavier (Wq 122/3). This might also have been due to the work's popu- 
larity, corroborated by as great an authority as Hasse who described it as 
'an unequalled masterpiece.' It starts with a forceful, almost fierce 
movement, containing passages soaring upward like rockets, effective 
changes between major and minor, and sudden pianissimos framed by 
fortes. A most expressive transition leads to the middle movement 

1 Friedemann's only concerto for 2 claviers is in the same key of E flat. 


(Ex. 90). This brief and more conventional piece is followed by a finale 
which, with its jagged melodic lines, and its spirit of vehement determina- 


tion, represents a tour de force of a highly emotional composer. But not 
all the Berlin symphonies are on this high level, even the latest of the 
period, JVq 181 in F of 1762, is rather old-fashioned in character. 

The ten symphonies written in Hamburg consist of two sets: six 
works (JVq 182) composed in 1773 for Gottfried van Swieten, Austrian 
Ambassador to the court at Berlin, and four (JVq 183) published in 1780 
with a dedication to Friedrich Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Prussia. Thus 
these compositions established contacts with men who were to have 
significant artistic connections with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. In 
the six symphonies of 1773 f° r strings an d continuo 1 the old concerto 
symphony of the Baroque period seems to be revived. There are neither 
soloists nor ripienists, but each instrument serves in turn as a melodic 
leader and an accompanist. Similar in character are the symphonies printed 
in 1780 and scored for two oboes, two horns, strings, bassoon and cem- 
balo. Impressive tutti alternate with delicate soli; even the virtuoso ele- 
ment is not completely missing and contemporary critics emphasized the 
works' technical difficulty. Emanuel had apparently no use for the South 
German innovation of including a Minuet in the symphony as a fourth 
movement. All compositions are in three movements, fast-slow-fast, inter- 
connected by modulating bridge passages. In the first symphony of 1780, 
for instance, a dramatic transition connects the exciting initial movement 
in D with the beautiful middle movement in E flat. 

Reichardt, who attended a rehearsal of the six symphonies of 1773, 
wrote in later years: 2 'One heard with rapture the original and bold course 
of ideas as well as the great variety and novelty in forms and modulations. 
Hardly ever did a musical composition of higher, more daring, and more 
humorous character flow from the soul of a genius.' Although Reichardt 
was notorious for his exaggerations, this report gives an idea of the 
general reaction to Emanuel's intense works, which were real products of 

1 Hugo Riemann, who first edited two of them, erroneously considered them as 
string quartets. 

2 'Allgemeine Musicalische Zeitung,' 18 14. 

c. p. emanuel's secular songs 369 

the Sturm und Drang movement just then reaching its climax. The 
following set shows the same characteristics, although it is superior in 
artistic quality. Its four symphonies are imbued with a dramatic power 
unusual even among Emanuel's works. The mighty build-up towards a 
climax at the beginning of the symphony in D, the sinister chains of trills 
in the first movement of the E flat symphony, and the humorous finale of 
that in F leave indelible impressions in the mind of the listener. It is more 
than a mere coincidence that the finale of Beethoven's second symphony 
is melodically related to the beginning of this symphony in F, which is 
possibly the most attractive work of the set. 

From a composer imbuing his instrumental works with so great an 
expressive power important contributions in the field of vocal composi- 
tion may be expected, and indeed Emanuel's abilities in this respect far 
surpass those of his elder brother. He composed songs, arias, choruses, 
cantatas and oratorios both for sacred and secular purposes; but he never 
wrote an opera. 

As a composer of secular songs or odes, as they were called at that time, 
Emanuel developed along the same lines as in his instrumental music. Up 
to the end his output showed a certain growth in quality and technical 
perfection. It was different, however, in the field of the sacred song. 
Owing to the royal free-thinker's aversion to church music, Emanuel 
wrote very few sacred works on the large scale at Berlin, but he found an 
outlet in the composition of outstanding religious songs. The situation 
changed as soon as he moved to Hamburg, where his new duties not 
merely allowed, but compelled him to write choral music for the church. 
During this period his interest was no longer engrossed in the smaller 
forms, and neither in style nor quality do the sacred songs written in 
Hamburg exhibit any improvement. 

Little is known of Emanuel's work as a writer of secular songs in Leipzig 
or Frankfurt, but in his first years in Berlin he contributed to various 
collections, which, according to Marpurg, held the 'balance between too 
ornate and too plain a style,' and whose texts 'made the listener neither 
blush nor yawn.' These widely dispersed songs as well as a few new com- 
positions were published by the composer in 1762 as Oden mit Melodien 
(JVq 199). The texts frequently introduce the fashionable shepherds and 
shepherdesses. These are clavier songs, in which the strophic form, 
customary at the time, prevails. The keyboard part is written out, and the 


right hand doubles the vocal melody. Emanuel belongs to the first com- 
posers who introduced brief and purely instrumental ritornels into the 
songs, preceding or interrupting the vocal sections. The finest of these 
early songs (first published in 1741) is based on Marianne von Ziegler's 
Eilt ihr Schafer ('Hasten ye shepherds'). Emanuel uses the words of a 
poetess who had already provided texts for his father's cantatas, and it is 
worth mentioning that the same shepherd's song was set to music forty 
years later by Joseph Haydn. Emanuel's composition in plain two-part 
song form is quite charming and of classical simplicity. Equal in value are 
Der Morgen ('The morning'), gay and unpretentious in the manner of a 
hunting song, and the tragic lament Die verliebte Veriweiflung ('Love's 
despair') in Emanuel's favourite key of c. Other songs in the collection of 
1762, however, are conventional in their musical expression and devoid of 
deeper feeling. The composer often transplants his keyboard style rather 
mechanically to the song form and creates odes of instrumental rather than 
vocal conception. 

In the Berlin years a number of cantata-like songs were written, such 
as the jolly drinking song Briider, wiser Bruder lebe ('Brothers, long live 
our brother*; Wq 201), on words by Emanuel's friend, Gleim, in which 
the lines are presented alternately by a group of merry guests and their 
liberal host. In the same year 1766 Emanuel published Phillis und Tirsis 
(Wq 232) for 2 sopranos, 2 flutes, and continuo, one of the most tender 
and delicate miniatures the musical Rococo has produced. To the Ham- 
burg period belongs Selma {Wq 236), a passionate soprano cantata set 
with full orchestral accompaniment in 1770, but reduced for publication 
in Voss' 'Musen-Almanach' of 1776 to the essential parts, soprano and 
continuo. The same Almanach for the year 1782 contains the lovely song 
Ichging unterErlen ('I walked beneath alders'; Wq 202/L), a gem of grace- 
ful simplicity. Quite different in character is the magnificent Trennung 
('Separation'; Wq 202/ 0/ 4), in which sonorous octaves of the left hand 


imitate bells ringing a farewell {Ex. 91). The song assumes a weird 
character when diminished and augmented intervals appear in the left 


hand symbolizing the hopeless sadness of this scene of parting. 1 The very 
latest collection of Emanuel's odes (JVq 200), which appeared in 1789, one 
year after his death, shows both a greater depth of feeling and an increase 
in technical skill. The serious songs in particular sometimes foreshadow 
the art of Beethoven and Brahms. In Nonnelied ('Nun's song'), for instance, 
Emanuel avoids the traditional strophic form; the music of the five stanzas 
is beautifully differentiated, to achieve the effect of growing despair. 

In the field of the sacred song Emanuel's output is inseparably con- 
nected with the work of Christian Fiirchtegott Gellert (1715-69), whose 
importance for the lied of the 18th century can only be compared to 
Heinrich Heine's influence on that of the 19th century. Gellert's Geistliche 
Oden und Lieder of 1757 belong to the greatest poems written for the 
Protestant Church in the age of Rationalism. The poet indicated numerous 
chorale melodies to which his songs could be sung; nevertheless for more 
than seventy years composers competed in setting them to music. Haifa 
century after their creation their noble sentiments still inspired composi- 
tions by Haydn and Beethoven. In 1758, one year after the publication of 
the texts, 55 Gellert songs appeared with Emanuel's music (JVq 194) and 
were so successful that five editions had to be printed in the composer's 
lifetime. Gellert himself, who stressed that 'the best song without its 
fitting melody is like a loving heart lacking its consort,' was deeply im- 
pressed by this music. In the preface to the collection Emanuel explained: 
'When inventing the melodies, I considered as far as possible the poem as 
a whole. I say as far as possible since no expert can ignore the fact that not 
too much should be expected of a tune meant for more than a single 
stanza.' Though aware of these difficulties, Emanuel did not consider the 
expedient (later used in his secular songs) of altering the music in accord- 
ance with changes in the text, as this would have made the employment 
of his odes in the church service impracticable. It is true that Du klagst 
('Thou lamentest') has two melodies, a sad one in c minor for the first five 
stanzas, and a more serene one in C major for the remaining nine stanzas; 
but this is an exception, and in some other songs discrepancies between 
music and text were not avoided. At times there is also a certain prepon- 
derance of the declamatory and arioso element, resulting in a neglect of 
simple melodic beauty. Besides, Emanuel again stresses the instrumental 
character, prescribing ornaments mainly meant for the keyboard which a 
singer would have difficulties in executing. 

1 Gustav Mahler may have known Emanuel's ode (which was first published in 1900); 
there is both in the poignancy of expression and the harmonic idiom a certain resemblance 
between the last movement of 'Das Lied von der Erde' and 'Trennung.' 


These deficiencies, which the composer shares with most of the song 
writers of his time, are outweighed, however, by outstanding merits. The 
technical perfection, in particular the harmonic boldness and contrapuntal 
skill, is superb. The intensity of Emanuel's interpretation is revealed in 
most unusual prescriptions heading the songs, such as 'loftily and 
emphatically,' 'pompously,' 'magnanimously,' 'composedly.' 1 Among the 
finest songs of the set are Demuth ('Humility'), Wider den Uebermuth 
('Against Pride'), Der Kampf der Tugend ('The struggle of virtue'), and 
the magnificent Bitten ('Prayers'), which may have induced Beethoven to 
use the same text (op. 48/1). 

In 1764 there was published an Appendix to the Gellert songs (Wq 
195) which contained, among others, the beautiful 88th Psalm, resembling 
in its powerful harmonic language Sebastian's chorales. The success of 
this song seems to have caused the composer to publish, in 1774, music to 
42 of Cramer's sentimental German translations of the Psalms (Wq 196). 
While some of them do achieve the character of chorales, none reaches the 
virility and strength of the former work. 

Two sets of Geistliche Gesdnge by Sturm published in 1780-81 (Wq 
197-98) seem to reflect, especially in the more tragic compositions, the 
vigorous personality of the librettist, who was Emanuel's personal friend 
(cf. p. 346). Der Tag des Weltgerichts ('The day of the last judgment'), 
with its threatening dotted rhythms in the left hand, and the moving 
Ueber die Finsternis^ kur^ vor dem Tode Jesu ('On the darkness shortly 
before Jesus' death'), both ending with the stirring invocation 'Have mercy 
on us,' belong to his most powerful settings. Unfortunately their spon- 
taneity of expression is not maintained in other songs of the collection. 

Of Emanuel's larger vocal works the majority were written in Hamburg 
to comply with the pressing needs of the day. As music director in one of 
the biggest North German cities he was expected to produce a continuous 
stream of Singstucke fur die Kirche, as he called them in his autobiography. 
What counted was the quantity, not the quality of the output. The com- 
poser manufactured no less than 20 Passions, and various Cantatas for 
Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, St. Michael's Day, and certain Sundays. 
In addition he produced birthday and wedding cantatas, and compositions 
for the induction of a new pastor or the funeral of a mayor. Little among 
this music is of any importance. It is routine work using stereotyped 

1 'Erhaben und nachdriicklich,' 'prachtig,' 'grossmiitig,' 'gelassen.' 


patterns: smooth opera recitatives, arias of a pale and insignificant lyricism, 
and homophonic choruses with infrequent polyphonic episodes. Often the 
composer borrowed from other works, arranged and transposed them, 
changed the texts, added a little of his own making and obtained with a 
minimum of effort a 'new' composition. In Emanuel's Einchoriges Heilig 
in C {Wq 218), for instance, a short and solemn introduction is followed 
by a fugue using music from Sebastian's Magnificat ('Sicut locutus'). 1 
His Cantata for the 16th or 24th Sunday after Trinity, of 1774, 2 even 
employs as first and last chorus the motet Der Gerechte by Johann 
Christoph Bach (cf. 111. VI) leaving the five voice parts and the text of the 
original unchanged, but adding orchestral instruments. The rest of the 
cantata consists of recitatives and arias by Johann Christoph's great- 
nephew; Emanuel apparently did not mind the stylistic gap between the 
two sections of the work. In his St. Matthew Passions Emanuel borrowed 
no less than 3 chorales and 10 choruses from his father's St. Matthew 
Passion, besides one chorale each from Sebastian's St. John Passion, 
Christmas Oratorio, Cantatas 39 and 153. Compositions by Telemann 
were also frequently used for his Passions, in particular for those 
according to St. John. As a matter of fact not one of Emanuel's 20 Passions 
is a completely new composition. Possibly the most attractive sections in 
these pasticcios for the church are arrangements for chorus and orchestra 
which the composer made of his own sacred songs. 

The question may well be asked why Emanuel, instead of plundering 
other works, did not provide his congregation with the great experience 
of occasionally hearing Sebastian's Passions as a whole. The reason for 
this, as we see it to-day, irreverent attitude may have been the Hamburg 
citizens' novelty-hunger. They would not have cared to hear a work 
composed some 50 years ago, while an adaptation of the kind Emanuel 
made might pass as a new composition. 3 

In his Autobiography Emanuel remarked that all through his life he 
had to write much in compliance with orders, while he found only limited 
time for composing after his own heart. In order to evaluate his greatness 
rightly, one must disregard such inferior works which were obviously 
written to satisfy pressing demands. 

There is a small group of works, however, which were not written 
merely for Hamburg's churches, but for the large circle of Emanuel's 
admirers throughout the country. This handful of compositions gives a 

1 Cf. Karl Geiringer, 'Artistic Interrelations of the Bachs,' MQ, July 1950. 

2 Autograph University Library of Tubingen. The work is not mentioned in JVq. 

3 Cf. Emanuel's letter to G. M. Telemann, 'Allgemeine Musikal. Zeitung,' 1869. 


good idea of the high standards Emanuel could reach in choral music if he 
gave of his best. The earliest work of this kind is the Magnificat (Wq 215) 
for solo voices, four-part chorus, flutes, oboes, horns, trumpets, timpani 
and strings, written in 1749, while he lived in Berlin. Winterfeld, that fine 
judge of Protestant church music, justly called it an 'anthology of various 
styles.' In fact we find French rhythms and Italian melodies of the kind 
used by Hasse in this work. Even more important is the son's dependence 
on Sebastian's model. The melodies to Deposuit potentes and Fecit 
potentiam practically quote the father's work, and the brilliant and fiery 
fugue Sicut erat in principio seems to revive experiences from Emanuel's 
student days. On the other hand, the homophonic choruses Nos. 1 and 
4 and the expressive numbers for the soloists reveal the composer's pro- 
gressive attitude. It is significant that themes similar to those used in the 
last movement of the Magnificat appear in the Kyrie of Mozart's Requiem 
{Ex. 92); this points once more to Emanuel's historic position as a link 
between Sebastian and the classical composers. 

Mozart,, Ttequnem" 

Ky . . ri - e e . . It . . i . Son. 

C. T. £ Bach „ Magnificat " 


The Passion Cantata (JVq 233) of 1769-70 was, according to a notice 
in the Nachlasskata/og, derived from an earlier Passion from which the 
part of the Evangelist was omitted. Furthermore the work contains hardly 
any chorales, and exhibits the then fashionable, sentimental lyricism. The 
funeral music after the death of Jesus is orchestrated for flutes and muted 
strings to create a feeling of delicate suffering in the souls of the audience. 
The most famous number of the Cantata was the tenor aria in b of Peter 
('Turn toward my grief), which, according to Burney, who attended a 
performance, moved all the listeners to tears. The sensibility of Emanuel's 
Berlin colleague, Karl Heinrich Graun, whose 'Death of Jesus' (1755) 
belonged to the most successful works of the period, permeates the score. 
Even operatic elements, such as a rondo-like construction at the end of 
the work, find their place in the score. Yet Sebastian's spirit is not com- 
pletely absent in this cantata. In the chorus 'Let us look up toward Jesus' 
the voices in unison present a chorale-like melody in long notes accom- 
panied by the slow and solemn strains of the orchestra, producing an over- 
whelming picture of divine majesty and its reflection in the human soul. 

emanuel's larger vocal works 


Equally powerful and imbued with the Baroque spirit is the double fugue 
concluding this number. 

The two-part cantata Die Israeliten in der Wuste (The Israelites in the 
desert'; Wq 238) was written in the same year, 1769, but not published 
until 1775. It is altogether homophonic in its texture and completely un- 
dramatic. Nevertheless this score too contains remarkable details, such as 
the prayer of Moses in the form of an agitated accompagnato recitative 
repeatedly interrupted by frenzied interjections from the chorus. Another 
highlight of the work is the scene when Moses strikes the rock three times 
and water gushes forth. Here the murmuring runs of the violin accom- 
panying the joyful song of the Israelites produce a highly colourful piece. 

Whenever 'The Israelites' was performed in later years, the powerful 
Heilig (JVq 217) for two choruses, published in 1779, was chosen as a 
conclusion. In composing a German Sanctus, Emanuel followed old 
Protestant traditions also adopted by his predecessor, Telemann, and his 
brother, Friedemann. The beginning of the work is not very promising, 
for it starts with a rather playful 'Ariette' for soprano solo, which even 
ardent admirers of the composition felt to be out of place. Rochlitz 
omitted it altogether in his edition of the work, while Zelter arranged it 
for a separate third chorus. With the entrance of the main choral section, 
however, the work radiates dramatic energy and a fiery spirit. The music 
is entrusted to a 'chorus of the angels' and a second 'chorus of the nations,' 
which Emanuel, conforming to earlier conceptions of the Roman and Vene- 
tian school, endowed with contrasting tone-colours and posted in different 
parts of the church; at the beginning strings only are used as accompani- 
ment for the angels, full orchestra with oboes, trumpets and timpani for 
the chorus of the nations. Three times each of the two groups enunciates 
the words: 'Holy is the Lord of Sabaoth.' A fugue of Handelian grandeur 
ensues which introduces the hymn 'Lord God, Thy praise we sing' as a 
powerful cantus firmus presented in unison by the chorus to the poly- 
phonic accompaniment of the orchestra. Bold modulations (Ex. 93) and 

Z* 93 

Chorus of Angels 

ff° ir ftnr 'p w ^ i 

the effective juxtaposition of sharply contrasting keys, to distinguish 
between celestial and terrestrial hosts, equip this music with an expressive 


power that was admired long after Emanuel's death. The more remote 
keys like C sharp, B and F sharp are usually reserved for the divine, the 
simpler D, G and C for the human chorus. There is a general tendency 
towards chromatic ascent, lifting the listener to higher and higher levels, 
until the whole octave is covered. With the Heilig Emanuel created a work 
untouched by the general decline in late 18th-century sacred music, and 
equal in importance to the finest of his compositions for the clavier. The 
public's response was most gratifying, and soon after the publication 
Emanuel could write to Breitkopf that his 'Heilig like the Sonatas was 
selling as fast as the hot pastry in front of the Stock Exchange, where as a 
lad he had broken the neck of many an almond-cracknel.' 

Emanuel's Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu ('Jesus' Resurrection 
and Ascension'; Wq 240), published in 1778, is based on a text by K. W. 
Ramler that was also set to music by Telemann and Zelter. The libretto 
introduces no Biblical characters and consists of lyrical observations only. 
Emanuel's music, however, adds vigour and fire to the sentimental words. 
The sinister orchestral introduction of violas and basses in unison ending 
in pianissimo seems like a dirge mourning the death of God's own Son. 
The first chorus rather timidly prepares for the miracle of the resurrection. 
It is followed by a magnificent recitative 'Judaea trembles,' in which 
earthquake and inundation reflect nature's reaction to the Lord's return. 
With the help of strings and timpani only the composer creates 'one of the 
most powerful recitatives written in Germany during the second half of 
the 1 8th century' (Schering). Among the arias the great bass solo 'Open, 
ye gates of Heaven,' with trumpets and horns, was particularly admired. 
Zelter omitted this aria from his own setting of Ramler' s poem, explaining 
that Bach had composed it 'with such colossal grandeur and so divinely 
that any composer after him must fail in an equal attempt.' Similarly 
inspired are the great choruses of the work, especially its monumental 
finale, 'God is gone up,' with its almost Beethoven-like unison of the 
voices at the words 'God is the King' (Ex. 94) and its concluding free 

En. Si- Full orchestra ^ 

Ih M H H i *. mm "M ^m 

Zhcrus -DtrHtrr ist KS . . . .'«,y V I |M V I 

fugue. The large dimensions of this chorus, which fills nearly one-third of 
the printed score, are meant to counterbalance the preponderance of solo 
numbers in Ramler's text. Between the works of Handel and Haydn few 
oratorios of equal significance were produced in Germany, and it is not 

emanuel's larger vocal works 377 

hard to understand why Mozart felt induced to conduct the work in 
Vienna one year after its publication. 

Unlike his elder brother, Emanuel took a vital interest in the idiom of 
his own time. The musical language of sensibility was of the utmost 
importance to him, but, as a true son of Sebastian, he spurned its shallow 
tearfulness and gave it depth and strength. Thus his works display genuine 
passion instead of the prevalent weak sentimentality, and in their emo- 
tional intensity they range close to the greatest products which the 
Sturm und Drang produced in the field of literature. Haydn, Mozart and 
Beethoven were deeply impressed by these compositions, which are pro- 
gressive and conservative, soulful and vigorous, all at the same time. 


J. Sebastian Bach = Anna Magdalena Wilcken Ludolf A. MQnchhausen 

1685-1750 j 1701-60 1697-1778 

J. Christoph Friedrich Bach=Lucie Elisabeth MQnchhausen 


1 73 2- 1 803 

Anna Philippine Friederike =Ernst C. Colson Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Christine Louise 


1746-95 1759-1845 1762-1852 


J. Christoph Friedrich Colson Caroline Auguste Wilhelmine 
1778-1831 1800-71 1805-58 

(This line continues up to 
the present time) 

johann christoph friedrich bach, born on June 21, 1732, the 
eldest son of Sebastian's second marriage to gain distinction, had, like his 
half-brothers, musical ancestors on both sides of the family. His mother, 
Anna Magdalena, was a professional singer herself; her grandfathers had 
been a town musician and an organist, while her father had served as a 
court trumpeter. 

Friedrich received the usual excellent musical instruction from his 
father and planned to study law at Leipzig University, before starting a 
career as a musician. However, not long after he had become enrolled 
there, a chance came his way to be appointed to the court of the Count of 
Schaumburg-Lippe in Biickeburg, a little Westphalian town some 30 
miles west of Hanover. Sebastian, at that time nearly blind and seriously 
ailing, felt this to be too good an opportunity to be missed, and so Fried- 
rich left his father's house early in 1750, shortly before his 18th birthday. 

How the youth got this position is left to guesswork. There may have 
been some connection between Sebastian and the Biickeburg court; for 
Count Albrecht Wolfgang of Schaumburg-Lippe was married to the 
widow of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, 1 the Princess for whom 

1 Cf. K. A. Varnhagen von Ense, 'Biographische Denkmale,' I, Berlin, 1824. 


Sebastian had composed the Cantata Steigt freudig in die Luft (cf. p. 168). 
However, it seems more likely that it was Emanuel who helped his young 
half-brother. In 1748 Count Wolfgang died and was succeeded by his son, 
Count Wilhelm. Soon after ascending the throne, the new ruler went to 
Berlin to visit King Friedrich, with whom he shared a passionate interest 
in military problems and a genuine love of music. That he met the court 
accompanist is proved by Emanuel's dedication of 2 Trio Sonatas to the 
Count (cf. p. 361). The young ruler was anxious to cultivate the muses 
in his little court at Biickeburg, and to follow King Friedrich's example in 
having fine chamber music. He may have talked of his ambitions to 
Emanuel, who thus got an opportunity of recommending his half-brother. 
Anyway, by the time Sebastian's property was divided among his heirs, 
Friedrich Bach was mentioned in the acts as Chamber musician to his 
Excellency, the Count of Lippe. 1 The position was an excellent one for a 
beginner. Friedrich received a salary of 200 thalers, two-thirds of what 
Emanuel, 18 years older and a well-recognized composer and pianist, was 
paid at that time at the Prussian court. Biickeburg, a town of some 6000 
inhabitants, could not, of course, offer the artistic and intellectual stimulus 
of Berlin, but it was beautifully located, and the impressionable young 
Friedrich must have loved the enormous oak and beech forest nearby, the 
'boldest, most German, and most romantic landscape in the world' 
(Herder). 2 Moreover there could not be any dullness at the court of a man 
whom even Goethe called 'extraordinary.' 'His was a queer appearance,' 
wrote the Swiss physician, J. G. Zimmermann, 3 'because of the heroic 
proportions of his body, his flying hair, and his unusually long and lanky 
person. But on approaching him, one felt differently: grandeur, acumen, 
nobility, deep observation, goodness and calm were eloquent in his face.' 
Intensely ambitious, endowed with a tremendous aptitude for physical 
activity, and a keen intellect, the Count, who was a second son, originally 
concentrated all his great gifts on military exploits. When, on the death of 
his elder brother, he was called upon to rule over his subjects, he wanted 
to prove that he could make of the small principality a model of military 
preparedness, economic well-being, and high culture. His first step was to 
introduce universal military training, which was something unheard-of at 
that time; subsequently he organized an equally novel insurance scheme 

1 The Biickeburg City Council invited him in the summer of 1750 to appear in the 
City Hall in order to take possession of a clavier from his father's legacy. 

a Cf. R. Haym, 'Herder nach seinem Leben und seinen Werken dargestellt,' Berlin, 

3 'Ueber die Einsamkeit,' Zurich, 1756. 


for his subjects, reclaimed desert soil, created settlements for military 
veterans in the huge forests, took proper care of orphans and destitute 
people, and, best of all, contrary to the tradition at his court, he managed 
to carry out his great schemes without undue taxation of his people. 

In the realm of music, Count Wilhelm, who often conducted his own 
orchestra, greatly admired the Italian style. He engaged, probably simul- 
taneously with young Bach, two Italians for the leading positions: Angelo 
Colonna as concert-master and Giovanni Battista Serini as composer. At 
first Sebastian Bach's son was merely a member of the orchestra, and it 
was his main concern to become thoroughly familiar with Italian music. 
This he evidently achieved to the satisfaction of the Count, who presented 
him in 175 5 with a large and beautiful garden situated outside the city wall. 
It is probable that this was intended as a wedding gift, for in the same year 
Friedrich married Lucia Elisabeth Munchhausen, daughter of a colleague 
in the court orchestra. Lucia, born in the same year as her husband, 1732, 
was a professional musician. She had received singing lessons from Serini 
and was engaged by the Count as court singer at a yearly salary of 100 
thalers. In wedding a singer, whose ancestors had through three genera- 
tions served as court musicians or organists, and in taking this step at the 
age of 23, Friedrich followed closely his father's example, the only one of 
Sebastian's sons to do so. However, Lucia Bach was more fortunate than 
her mother-in-law; she did not have to give up her artistic work, like Anna 
Magdalena, but continued to earn a salary up to her death at the age of 71. 

One year after the wedding Fate intervened to bring about a change in 
Friedrich Bach's status: war broke out, the war that was to last for seven 
years. The two Italian musicians left the court; no replacement was made, 
and Friedrich as a matter of course took over both their duties. This did 
not mean too much at the moment, for the Count's military ambition was 
aflame, making him neglect everything else. He concluded an alliance 
against France with Hanover and England (a country to which he was 
deeply attached as he was born and educated there) and in the following 
years was absent from Biickeburg for long stretches of time, winning 
laurels that brought him the title of British field-marshal. Yet he did not 
quite forget his musicians, and in 1759, when Friedrich's first son was 
born, the Count stood godfather to him, and now confirmed Bach's 
engagement as concert-master, allowing him a salary of 400 thalers, twice 
his initial honorarium. This was welcome indeed to the Bachs, for war 
was having its disastrous effect on living conditions in the little state, 
which, owing to its ruler's allegiance to England, repeatedly suffered occu- 
pation by French troops. At last peace was concluded, and in November 


1763 the Count returned, after winning outstanding victories as 
Commander-in-Chief and reorganizer of the Portuguese army. He now 
threw himself with all the zest of his vigorous nature into civil tasks. He 
took a lively interest in the music at his court and, thanks to his en- 
couragement, Friedrich Bach was able to establish in little Biickeburg a 
musical repertoire that could well stand comparison with that of much 
larger courts. Performances took place regularly twice a week, but in 
addition special events were celebrated through the presentation of 
oratorios, symphonies, etc., and Biickeburg could pride itself on acquiring 
important musical novelties almost as soon as they came out. By degrees 
the preponderance of Italian music gave way to somewhat greater variety, 
and works by Gluck, Haydn, and members of the Mannheim school were 
occasionally played under Friedrich Bach's direction. 

The intellectual life at the court received stimulation through the 
arrival in 1765 of a gifted young philosopher, Thomas Abbt. The Count 
especially enjoyed talking to so congenial a spirit and Abbt could report 
to his friend, Moses Mendelssohn: 'If you heard the Count reci